Virus spread slows statewide, remains steady in Carter County

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

Statewide trends this week showed a slowing spread of COVID-19 but Carter County continues to record hundreds of new cases per week. Hospitals are beginning to feel some relief as state health officials announced increased efforts to expand vaccination efforts. 

Oklahoma has recorded 401,780 total cases of COVID-19 after 4,715 new cases were recorded between Friday and Saturday, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard. Carter County accounts for 5,308 of those cases after 89 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 seven-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases reported statewide Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021 has fallen to the lowest level since Nov. 14, 2020 but has remained above 2,100 for 84 consecutive days.

While the seven-day average of new daily cases statewide has fallen more than 7% in the last week, the average in Carter County has climbed over 14% between Sunday, Jan. 31 and Saturday, Feb. 6, according to OSDH data compiled by The Ardmoreite. Active cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma in that time fell from 29,539 to 26,283, but the number of cases in the county climbed from 528 to 550. 

The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases reported in Carter County has mostly been between 40 and 50 after a January surge in new cases.

Hospitalizations statewide and locally seem to be on the decline. At least 1,051 Oklahoma hospital beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients in Oklahoma by the end of the week, the lowest number reported by OSDH since Nov. 9. Mercy Hospital Ardmore was caring for 33 COVID-19 patients on Saturday morning, including 10 in the intensive care unit, according to Mercy Hospital media relations Executive Director Nancy Corbett. 

Even though the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital is less than half of what was reported during a January spike, the pandemic continues to have a massive impact on the health care provider. 

“Although our COVID volumes have dropped by about half, we continue to see relatively strong inpatient volumes overall. However, the decline has definitely helped us decompress our Emergency Department and improve wait times for our patients,” said Mercy Hospital Ardmore President Daryle Voss on Friday. 

Vaccination efforts statewide continue to be hampered by limited supply but weekly allotments are slowly growing. OSDH Deputy Commissioner Keith Reed on Thursday said at least 11,300 doses of vaccines are expected to be shipped directly to 73 pharmacies next week, including some Walmart locations across the state.  

Eligible Oklahomans can still use the OSDH online scheduling portal or health department resources to find appointments that are made available weekly, but Reed said the limited pharmacies receiving vaccines this month will use their own scheduling systems. 

“Much like appointments scheduled through the portal, your local pharmacy may not have vaccine right away or may have a very limited supply,” Reed told reporters on Thursday. Exact locations of the 73 pharmacies that are part of the federal retail program remained unclear Saturday. 

On Thursday, OSDH announced 500,000 vaccinations had been distributed in Oklahoma. Nearly 700,000 people had signed up through the state’s vaccination scheduling portal by Friday morning and over 40% of Oklahomans 65 years or older have received a first dose, according to a Friday OSDH statement. 

While OSDH is averaging abouty 9,500 shots per day, Reed said that numbers of currently vaccinated Oklahomans are likely underreported. Irregular or incomplete reporting data from providers outside of the state health department, like CVS, Walgreens, federal vaccination efforts and Native American nations has resulted in OSDH not compiling some data. 

“I anticipate it is considerably higher than that, but that’s what we know of right now,” Reed said. 

State health officials say that plans to expand providers or open eligibility to more groups still rely on the number of doses shipped each week. Until more vaccines become available, health officials continued to urge safety ahead of this weekend’s Super Bowl to continue this week’s downward trends statewide in new cases and hospitalizations. 

“We certainly know that the vaccines are going to be a great benefit to our state, but the progress we’ve seen really thus far in terms of cases and hospitalizations are largely attributable to the actions of Oklahomans [are] taking to protect themselves,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor on Thursday.