In less than two years, COVID-19 has killed more than twice as many people in the U.S. than a decade of influenza has, said Dr. Mark Frost, chief medical officer for Saint Francis Health System, in warning people not to become complacent as the latest surge eases.
Frost said focusing on vaccinating the community against COVID is crucial to finally bringing the pandemic to a close and protecting against the potential for another variant to emerge that shoves aside the delta variant.
“We’ve had 35 COVID deaths in just one week within Saint Francis Health System,” Frost said Monday during the hospital system’s weekly briefing with reporters. “So it’s still an alarming, very dangerous disease.
“More people have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began than died the last 10 years from influenza. So it should still have our attention to get folks vaccinated because those vaccines really do work.”
In fact, COVID deaths are more than double the CDC’s influenza death estimates from the past 10 flu seasons combined.
The CDC estimates there have been 342,000 deaths from the flu in the U.S. in the past 10 years. More than 700,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S., according to CDC data.
COVID-19 hospitalizations across Oklahoma dropped by 10% over the weekend, with a three-day average of 967 reported Monday compared to 1,077 Friday. The drop is 18% from the 1,181 hospitalized a week ago.
Almost one-third — or 295 — are patients in intensive care units.
Still trending in the opposite direction as the final lagging indicator of viral spread, COVID deaths in Oklahoma are at a peak.
The CDC reported another 140 COVID deaths in Oklahoma since Friday, which brings the seven-day average up to a record 49.3 deaths per day.
That tops the average of 48.7 posted Sept. 22 and outstrips Oklahoma’s winter peak death rate of 47.0 because the state fell behind in reporting COVID deaths by about 2,500 deaths.
Frost noted that national experts believe the U.S. will experience a normal flu season this year after it was almost nonexistent a year ago with vaccination, masking, handwashing and social distancing.
“We anticipate that we will see numerous hospitalizations from influenza as we move into these winter months,” Frost said, adding that he believes the hospital system is ready to handle both flu and COVID inpatients.
Frost said national experts believe that the delta variant surge should continue to taper off as more individuals get vaccinated and emphasis is placed on mask wearing and social distancing for those who are unvaccinated.
“The big wildcard is whether we will have another variant crop up,” Frost said. “There’s been several other variants that have been in the country, but they don’t seem to be as contagious or as virulent as the delta was.
“So hopefully with the increased amount of immunity we’re getting with vaccinations and people’s intention to protecting themselves, we will see the downturn continue to make progress with this pandemic.”