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Halloween to blame as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise 'week over week,' White House report states
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Halloween to blame as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise 'week over week,' White House report states

In a 16-hour period, Oklahoma reported COVID-19 daily records for hospitalizations, ICU patients and deaths.

Additionally, the state’s seven-day moving average of new cases Wednesday hit a record 2,729. Hospitalizations, ICU patients and deaths are all metrics that lag new cases.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force report dated Nov. 15 was released Wednesday, and it didn’t mince words about Oklahoma’s situation:

“The spread in Oklahoma is exponential and unyielding, with hospitalizations increasing week over week and reported limited bed availability. Increases from the past two weeks correlate with Halloween and related activities.”

There were 1,434 COVID hospitalizations reported Tuesday, with 447 in ICU beds — both records. The 26 COVID deaths reported Wednesday was a single-day high.

ICU bed availability in Oklahoma has dropped to between 5% and 7% in November, ranging from about 42 to 67 available staffed ICU beds, according to state data.

The White House report points to university campuses as “students are letting their guards down” without considering they may be asymptomatic and later spread the virus to family members.

“With Thanksgiving and upcoming holidays, Oklahomans must understand the COVID-19 situation statewide,” the report states. “Serious messaging and action are needed from state leadership; recommending Oklahomans wear masks in public settings communicates the current risk level and actions all Oklahomans need to take.”

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday announced an executive order requiring bars and restaurants to close by 11 p.m., except for curbside, drive-through and delivery services. They also are required to ensure all tables and bar tops have 6 feet of separation, unless there are properly sanitized dividers in between.

“Effective practices to decrease transmission in public spaces include limiting restaurant indoor capacity to less than 25% and limiting bar hours until cases and test positivity decrease to the yellow zone,” the report states.

Exponential growth

During OSU Center for Health Science’s Project ECHO COVID-19 meeting on Wednesday morning, Dr. Jennifer Clark highlighted several disturbing trends in data.

But the most concerning slide, Clark said, was her look at the seven-day rolling average of active COVID-19 cases. Active cases doubled from 14,000 to 28,000 in only a month, from Oct. 17 to Monday.

“If we keep on this trajectory we’ll double again in a couple of weeks,” Clark said. “And then we go double again. So that’s that exponential growth that we’re starting to see.”

She pointed to Oklahoma’s monthly case count in November at 35,646, as of Tuesday. With 13 more days to go in the month, November already has surpassed October’s total — a then-record of 35,563.

Clark, an expert on health care delivery sciences and a former hospital administrator, said the state is on pace in November to outstrip record monthly hospitalizations and deaths, too. She said more people are getting tested for the virus but that the percentage of those testing positive is still increasing.

She also noted noted that ICU capacity is “getting crunched significantly” in Oklahoma.

“Oklahoma was one of the first five states that led this wave,” Clark said in reference to a series of Harvard Global Health Institute maps of U.S. hotspots that increasingly have become redder since September to encompass most of the nation.

‘Aggressive, unrelenting’ spread in U.S.

Oklahoma isn’t alone in its predicament. The White House report highlights “aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country” that is deteriorating without evidence of improvement.

“Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be increased to flatten the curve to sustain the health system for both COVID and non-COVID emergencies,” according to the report.

There are 69 of 77 counties — or 90% — in the White House’s red zone for high levels of transmission. Seventy-three counties — 95% — have at least moderate spread.

Oklahoma’s weekly new case rate is 394 per 100,000 people, with the national rate at 294. The state has outpaced the U.S. in this metric since August, and the red zone is 101 or above.

The state’s test positivity is at 17.7%, above the national average of 10.1%. The state has been above the national percentage since July, and 10.1% or above is the red zone.

Kay County, in the orange zone, is the only county in northeastern Oklahoma that isn’t in the red zone.

Those in red are: Tulsa, Adair, Cherokee, Craig, Creek, Delaware, Haskell, Latimer, LeFlore, Lincoln, Mayes, McIntosh, Muskogee, Noble, Nowata, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Payne, Pittsburg, Rogers, Sequoyah, Wagoner and Washington.

The data comprising the Nov. 15 report are from Nov. 7-13.


Oklahoma’s weekly new case rate

The numbers signify the weekly rate per 100,000 people. Red zone is 101 and above; orange zone is between 51 and 100; yellow zone is between 10 and 50.

Nov. 15: 394 (294 national average; 21st highest in U.S.)

Nov. 8: 259 (209; 22nd)

Nov. 1: 193 (165; 24th)

Oct. 25: 217 (133; 14th)

Oct. 18: 207 (117; 11th)

Oct. 11: 190 (100; 9th)

Oct. 4: 178 (90; 10th)

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 10.1% and above; orange zone is between 8.0% and 10.0%; yellow zone is between 5.0% and 7.9%.

Nov. 15: 17.7% (10.1% national rate; 9th highest in U.S.)

Nov. 8: 15.0% (8.4%; 11th)

Nov. 1: 12.6% (6.7%; 11th)

Oct. 25: 11.4% (5.8%; 8th)

Oct. 18: 10.9% (5.4%; 7th)

Oct. 11: 10.0% (5.8%; 8th)

Oct. 4: 11.0% (4.6%; 5th)

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%)

Source: White House Coronavirus Task Force reports. Each of these reports can be found online at coronavirus.health.ok.gov/white-house-coronavirus-task-force.


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Staff Writer

I am a general assignment reporter who predominately writes about public health, public safety and justice reform. I'm in journalism to help make this community, state, country and, ultimately, world a better place.

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