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County cases fall, southern Oklahoma remains virus hotspot

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

Active cases in Carter County remain among the highest in the state as another confirmed death was linked to COVID-19. With 21 deaths recorded by health officials in the county, reporting lags as the Oklahoma Veterans Center reports 40 deaths at the Ardmore facility. 

The seven-day average of newly reported deaths reached a record 33.86 on Wednesday. January in Oklahoma is on pace to record over 1,000 deaths.

Oklahoma has recorded 360,360 total cases of COVID-19 after 1,986 new cases were recorded Wednesday, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The number of deaths swelled to 3,085 after 48 new deaths were reported statewide. 

Among those deaths reported Wednesday was that of a Carter County woman between 50 and 64 years old, according to an OSDH daily situation report. 

The true number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick. OSDH reports of confirmed cases and deaths linked to COVID-19 are known to be delayed by days or even weeks. 

Despite a dramatic drop in active COVID-19 cases to 701, Carter County remained one of the worst-hit counties in Oklahoma on Wednesday.

While the state health department has confirmed at least 21 deaths in Carter County linked to the disease, the number of deaths at the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Ardmore is nearly double the official count. Forty deaths had been recorded at the facility as of Tuesday, according to Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Director of Homes Shawn Kirkland. 

Over 100 residents have contracted the coronavirus since an outbreak at the facility early last month. Kirkland said in a Tuesday evening email that 58 residents have since recovered but 11 currently have the disease, including four receiving hospital treatment. 

Carter County has recorded more than 4,500 cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic, with over 37% of cases recorded this month alone.

The number of active cases in Carter County has sharply fallen in the past week but remained over 700 on Wednesday. Only three days this year have recorded fewer than 600 active cases in the county. 

Carter County on Wednesday ranked fourth in the state for active cases of COVID-19 when adjusted for population, according to OSDH data and 2019 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Love County and Murray County are also among the top five counties in Oklahoma for active cases per 100,000 residents, all behind Adair County and Roger Mills County. 

When adjusted for population, Carter County has the fourth-highest rate of active COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma.

Statewide hospitalizations for COVID-19 fell below 1,800 for the first time since December but continue to strain health care resources, according to OSDH data compiled by The Ardmoreite. ICU bed availability in Oklahoma remained at 5% Tuesday and fell to 4% late last week, according to Wednesday’s COVID-19 Executive Order Report. 

Mercy Hospital Ardmore has been forced to use beds in their cardio cath lab holding area to manage a surge in hospitalizations in recent weeks. The hospital was caring for 53 COVID-19 patients on Wednesday morning, 10 of whom were receiving ICU care, according to Mercy Hospital media relations Executive Director Nancy Corbett.

"For the past few weeks, we have been utilizing six beds in our cath lab holding area due to the need to have more telemetry/monitored beds for inpatients," Corbett said on Wednesday. Those beds are in addition to other resources in psychiatric and emergency departments that were reallocated for inpatient care last month.

For most people, the new 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.