Local COVID-19 hospitalizations double in last 4 days

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite
The Mercy Hospital Ardmore campus on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. At least 10 patients in the hospital's emergency department on Monday were waiting for inpatient beds elsewhere as the number of COVID-19 patients being treated at the hospital nearly doubled since Thursday.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Ardmore has doubled in less than a week as a new wave of coronavirus crashes onto southern Oklahoma. A top public health official says low vaccination rates and lax measures to prevent the spread of a highly contagious coronavirus variant are leading to the recent wave of an ongoing pandemic. 

Mercy Hospital Ardmore was caring for 33 patients with COVID-19 on Monday, up from 17 patients on Thursday, said hospital spokesperson Nancy Corbett. At least six of those patients were receiving ICU care on Monday. 

The surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in southern Oklahoma is having an impact on emergency care. At least 10 patients in the Ardmore hospital’s emergency department were waiting on inpatient beds to open up elsewhere, according to Corbett. 

More:Local health care again pressured by COVID-19 surge

Roughly one-third of the hospital’s inpatient capabilities were being used by COVID-19 patients on Monday. For southern Oklahoma’s top public health official, the situation currently facing the hospital is a bellwether for the pandemic locally. 

“Their bed availability is not good. I think that’s a very good indicator that we’re in the swing of things and it’s really related to the Delta variant and how easily it is spread,” said Mendy Spohn, Regional Director for the Oklahoma State Department of Public Health Region 8. 

“It’s much more contagious than the first round of COVID that we saw,” said Spohn. 

Oklahoma has been recording new cases of COVID-19 at a rate not seen since February. The seven-day rolling average of new cases of COVID-19 soared past 1,600 on Monday, about five times higher than the rate in early March. 

An emergency response trailer sits in front of the Carter County Health Department on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. State public health officials have been working with school administrators to prepare for a new academic year amid a rising number of COVID-19 infections.

Carter County has also been recording new cases of the disease at rates not seen since February when almost 30 new cases of the disease were being recorded every day. The seven-day average of new daily cases of COVID-19 in Carter County spiked to 25 last week, up from nine the week prior. 

Carter County in July recorded 327 new cases of COVID-19, according to OSDH data, compared to 246 cases recorded in all of May and June. Spohn said community transmission of the highly contagious Delta variant is likely behind the recent surge in case numbers. 

“Of course we have no restriction or limitations and everyone is out and about. We haven’t been wearing masks and we don’t have a high percentage — at least in Carter County — of vaccinated individuals so that’s part of why we’re seeing an uptick in cases,” Spohn said on Monday. 

The beginning of the school year later this month also has public health workers on edge considering COVID-19 vaccines are not available for children under 12 years old. Spohn said she met with school superintendents last week to review precautions and investigation methods before classes begin. 

“I would say public health workers and school workers are anxious about the school year. We do anticipate that as kids come together, there will be transmission,” Spohn said. 

Almost 17 months out from the beginning of the pandemic in Oklahoma, many of the same precautions like social distancing and mask usage are being reiterated in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19. Spohn said vaccines are readily available for those 12 years and older from the health department or any number of private health care providers and pharmacies. 

Spohn also said people should be mindful of their own health. She advises not going to work or school if you are feeling ill, adding that testing is also widely available to help people know if they could be carrying the virus. 

“Go get tested. Know that you don’t have COVID, don’t just assume you don’t,” said Spohn.