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Virus trends fall but still higher than pre-surge levels

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

The number of hospital beds in Ardmore filled with COVID-19 patients has been cut by nearly half in recent weeks and an outbreak at the Oklahoma Veterans Center seems to have been contained to 109 residents. While the holiday virus surge seems to be in the past, new daily cases locally and statewide remain two to three times higher than peaks recorded before November. 

Deaths linked to COVID-19 also continue to be verified and reported by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, resulting in near record high numbers this week. The seven-day average of new deaths was 39 on Saturday after 273 were recorded by OSDH since Sunday. Nine of those deaths this week were recorded in Carter County, including one new death reported Saturday. 

The state health department has confirmed 32 deaths in Carter County were linked to COVID-19, including 14 deaths confirmed this month.

More information about the Carter County death reported Saturday was not available considering OSDH daily situation reports with demographic data are not released over the weekend. The county has officially recorded 32 deaths linked to COVID-19.

Oklahoma has recorded 386,590 total cases of COVID-19 after 5,160 new cases were recorded between Friday and Saturday, according to the OSDH COVID-19 dashboard. Carter County accounts for 4,982 of those cases after 124 new cases were reported in the county over two days.

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. 

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Carter County returned above 500 Saturday after a dramatic surge in cases and hospitalizations in the days and weeks after the new year started.

Statewide hospitalizations are down but are still twice as high as what was experienced in September. The number of hospitalizations fell this week from near 1,600 to 1,357 on Thursday. Mercy Hospital Ardmore on Saturday morning was caring for 33 patients with COVID-19, including 10 in ICU, according to Mercy Hospital media relations Executive Director Nancy Corbett. 

An outbreak of COVID-19 at the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Ardmore last month seems to have been contained in recent weeks. Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Director of Homes Shawn Kirkland said that only four of the residents infected by the coronavirus are still ill, with two in the hospital on Friday morning.  

The seven-day average of new daily cases in Oklahoma remains almost twice as high as anything recorded in Oklahoma before October.

Most of the 109 residents who have fallen ill have since recovered but 41 of them have died since Dec. 16, according to Kirkland.  

Vaccination efforts across the state continue to be hindered by inadequate supplies from federal shipments. OSDH Deputy Commissioner Keith Reed told reporters on Wednesday that health officials expect a 16% increase in weekly vaccine shipments in coming weeks. 

County health departments in southern Oklahoma are distributing much of vaccines allotted for this district. Julie Williamson, OSDH public information officer, said that some federally qualified health centers and hospitals have also been scheduling and administering vaccines. 

"We are up to 100 approved pandemic vaccine providers in the district, but I have not heard a timeline on when direct shipments will begin," Williamson said in an email late Thursday.

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.