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Virus continues to rage, VA deaths up to 34

Robby Short and Michael D. Smith
Carter County reported 77 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 3,907 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide and 44 newly reported deaths associated with the disease Wednesday. 

The new cases included 77 new confirmed cases for Carter County. The OSDH dashboard continues to lag behind in confirmed deaths for county, reporting just 19. However, according to Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Director of Homes Shawn Kirkland, the death toll at the Ardmore Veterans Center has risen to 34 as of Tuesday. 

At least 2,848 Oklahoma deaths have been associated to the disease since March.

Kirkland said Tuesday that the center had 37 in-house cases of COVID-19, four residents hospitalized and 40 recoveries since the outbreak began on Dec. 8.

Wednesday’s new cases increased the state’s seven-day average to 4,255, the highest total since the onset of the pandemic. Wednesday marked the third consecutive day as well as only the third day in which the seven-day total reached above 4,000.

According to data released by the OSDH and compiled by the Ardmoreite, Oklahoma had 39,141 confirmed active cases on Wednesday, 924 of which are located in Carter County, though the true number of coronavirus cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

OSDH Deputy Commissioner Keith Reed said nearly 400,000 Oklahomans have registered for vaccine appointments but only 182,000 doses have been administered statewide. Of those, 156,501 doses were first doses while 25,766 have been booster doses. Oklahoma is expected to receive an additional 48,475 doses next week.

Reed told reporters during a media briefing on Wednesday that better communication between OSDH and the 211 COVID-19 hotline regarding vaccination appointments. While the 211 hotline can provide assistance with the online scheduling portal, Reed said that appointments cannot be scheduled with the hotline.

Southern Oklahoma Library System spokesperson Emily Stinson said branches have already seen patrons request help with the online scheduling portal. 

"We want the public to know we are available to assist them with the online application process for vaccinations or with any other needs. We are staying up to date with current information related to COVID-19 and the vaccinations and our goal is to provide accurate information to those seeking facts and data related to their health," Stinson said in a Wednesday email.

Vaccination providers remain few in Oklahoma, but an announcement from federal officials on Tuesday authorized the release of second doses that were being held back from states. Reed said nothing was guaranteed as of Wednesday but told the 1,367 statewide providers who have registered to administer vaccines to "be prepared" in the next week or two.