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Oklahoma's COVID-19 rankings improve, but White House task force says there have been 'many preventable deaths'

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Oklahoma’s national ranking improved to 10th highest for new cases and 5th highest for test positivity in the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report.

But the task force’s first recommendation in the Oct. 4 report doesn’t sugar coat the pandemic’s effects in Oklahoma: “Community transmission has remained high across the state for the past month, with many preventable deaths.”

There have been 1,075 COVID-19 deaths so far in Oklahoma, which is averaging about six per day in a seven-day rolling average. That rate peaked at nearly 10.5 deaths per day on Aug. 30.

There were 231 COVID-19 deaths reported in the state in September, behind only 259 dead in August.

There are 36 counties — 47% — in the White House’s red zone that are experiencing high levels of community spread, and 54 counties — 70% — that have at least moderate transmission.

The federal report’s Wednesday release by the state comes amid record COVID-19 hospitalizations in Oklahoma only two weeks after the state allowed its overflow contracts with hospitals to expire.

Dr. Jennifer Clark addressed the hospital capacity situation in her weekly COVID-19 data presentation Wednesday morning for Project ECHO.

Clark said she spoke with her colleagues who are leaders across the state. Anecdotally, she said, they are telling her that more younger people are affected and, when hospitalized, tend to stay hospitalized for a longer period of time, thereby growing the number of patients in medical-surgical beds.

“Oklahoma City and the large health care systems there were having to divert patients to Tulsa to Kansas and down into Texas,” Clark said. “So we’ll see kind of how that peels out relative to the next handful of days with hospital capacity.”

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Oklahoma were records for two consecutive nights: 738 overnight Monday and 699 the night before. The figure came down some overnight Tuesday at 697 hospitalizations.

The previous high was 663 hospitalizations reported July 28.

Project ECHO is an OSU Center for Health Sciences program that offers medical education and care management to rural and underserved areas.

Clark, a physician and former hospital administrator, went through the new case rates in Oklahoma’s eight medical regions in her presentation.

She specifically noted that the northwest region’s rate is twice that of what the White House report considers to be the red zone for high levels of transmission. She said meatpacking plants and prisons are contributing to it.

“The big takeaway from this is that we have significant outbreaks, but we’re now starting to see those significant outbreaks are translating into widespread community involvement across the entirety of the state,” Clark said.

Clark said September became the worst month yet from the standpoint of new cases and active cases in Oklahoma.

“There is concern that October is well on its way to outstripping September,” Clark said. “Should we stay at current levels, that will be the case.”

Tulsa and Tulsa County are back in the White House’s red zone after spending one week in orange, where both have been since July 14 when the report began tracking individual metros and counties.

Oklahoma’s weekly new case rate is 178 per 100,000 people, nearly double the national average of 90 per 100,000. The state’s positivity rate is 11.0%, more than double the U.S. rate at 4.6%.

The task force recommends that masks must be worn indoors in all public settings and that group gathering sizes should be limited, also noting the importance of measures with colder weather soon to push more activities inside.

“Work with communities to message how masks work and protect individuals from COVID-19,” the report states. “In high transmission zones, limit indoor dining, bar hours, and expand outdoor dining options.”

The counties in the White House’s red zone in northeast Oklahoma are Tulsa, Adair, Craig, Creek, Delaware, Haskell, LeFlore, Mayes, Muskogee, Osage, Ottawa, Payne, Rogers and Sequoyah.

Oklahoma's new weekly cases

The numbers signify the weekly rate per 100,000 people. Red zone is 100 and above; yellow zone is 10 to 100

Oct. 4: 178 (90 national average; 10th highest in U.S.)

Sept. 27: 201 (93; 5th)

Sept. 20: 175 (86; 6th)

Sept. 13: 142 (74; 5th)

Sept. 6: 146 (88; 9th)

Aug. 30: 114 (88; 13th)

Aug. 23: 123 (93; 12th)

Aug. 16: 117 (112; 15th)

Aug. 9: 146 (114)

Aug. 2: 186 (137)

July 26: 126 (140)

July 19: 128 (140)

July 14: 102 (119)

July 5: 69 (100)

June 29: 67 (74)

Oklahoma’s weekly test positivity rate

Red zone is 10% and above; yellow zone is 5% to 10%

Oct. 4: 11.0% (4.6% national rate; 5th highest in U.S.)

Sept. 27: 11.8% (4.8%; 3rd)

Sept. 20: 9.9% (4.4%; 3rd)

Sept. 13: 10.0% (4.8%; 5th)

Sept. 6: 11.3% (5.2%; 4th)

Aug. 30: 9.6% (5.4%; 9th)

Aug. 23: 9.9% (5.8%; 8th)

Aug. 16: 9.4% (6.5%; 11th)

Aug. 9: 9.8% (7.1%)

Aug. 2: 9.8% (8.2%)

July 26: 10.1% (8.5%)

July 19: 9.8% (9.1%)

July 14: 9.7% (9.6%)

July 5: 6.0% (8.3%)

June 29: 5.8% (7.0%)

Each of these reports can be found online at

Source: White House Coronavirus Task Force reports

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Corey Jones


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