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Sand Springs sees no new COVID deaths and a decline of 15 infections
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Sand Springs sees no new COVID deaths and a decline of 15 infections

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For the first reporting period after a brief lull when city-specific health data were unavailable, Sand Springs has recorded no new COVID-19-related deaths and a decline of 15 active infections over the previous reporting period.

Numbers released Wednesday morning by City Manager Mike Carter show 71 active infections, down from 86 in the prior reporting period.

The city’s COVID death toll remains at 107.

The last time the city had a reporting period with no new deaths and a decline in active infections was in early June, data show.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health had announced Nov. 10 that it would no longer report COVID-19 data at the city level, citing staffing issues and the labor involved with compiling the numbers.

But Tulsa-area municipal leaders, including Carter, pushed back, arguing that broader data — such as countywide numbers — are virtually useless in smaller communities for gauging progress against the coronavirus.

For more than a year prior to the data cutoff, Carter had compiled his regular COVID-19 report based on local data that he shared with community leaders and government officials in other Tulsa suburbs.

He said previously that his reports have helped guide broader municipal policies as well as individual decisions, even leading some residents to change their minds and get vaccinated against the virus.

Last Thursday, eight days after the decision to stop releasing community-level data, the state reversed its decision.

Carter said last week that the state’s reversal “allows us to communicate the current status of COVID in Sand Springs. That helps us protect people at special events and empower them to make good decisions in regard to protective measures such as getting vaccinated.”

Among the numbers the state elected not to resume providing are statewide hospital admissions and county-level deaths.

And COVID deaths by ZIP code data now are suppressed if a ZIP code has only one to four deaths, with the Health Department listing those as zero instead.

At least 255 COVID deaths now are unaccounted for in the state’s data by ZIP code, according to a Tulsa World analysis.

Wednesday's report from Carter's office shows that the Tulsa metro area overall saw an increase of 52 cases and 30 additional deaths. All but eight of those came in the city of Tulsa, but six of the 10 municipalities in the area reported at least one death, the data show.

Sand Springs was one of only three municipalities to see a decline in active infections; Broken Arrow and Jenks were the other two.

According to Carter’s report, Hillcrest Healthcare System listed 46 hospitalizations, with 36 of those being unvaccinated people. Hillcrest also reported 17 cases requiring ICU care, with all 17 being unvaccinated patients.

Reporting of hospital data can be problematic because of the rapidly fluid nature of hospitalizations; the numbers provided are literally a snapshot of a single moment.

That said, it’s clear from the reporting trends over time that the vast majority of severe illnesses, hospitalizations and ICU admissions involve unvaccinated people.

Meanwhile, two public health experts are highlighting ongoing shortcomings and weaknesses of the state’s published COVID-19 data, from how often it’s published to how complete it is.

Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said that while data restoration is a positive step, work remains to ensure that “accurate and timely data” is published that is “essential” to curbing COVID-19.

Clarke specifically noted the data that report zero in ZIP codes that have one to four COVID deaths.

“As long as coronavirus is an ongoing threat, statistics are necessary tools for identifying trends and hotspots in a timely manner,” she said in a statement. “We remain hopeful they will continue updating and refining these fundamental data on the dashboard to offer the most transparent snapshot available.”

Dr. Dale Bratzler, the University of Oklahoma’s chief COVID officer, said he preferred it when the Health Department updated its data daily, rather than weekly, but that at a minimum, he wants consistency from the state as he tracks the virus for all of OU’s campuses and communities.

The reconfigured state Health Department data can be found here: oklahoma.gov/covid19/community-data.html.

Tulsa World staff writer Corey Jones contributed to this story.

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