Oklahoma’s new weekly COVID-19 case count per capita has doubled the national average in the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report.
The rate climbed to 175 per 100,000 people, which is double the U.S. rate of 86. Comparatively, the state dropped one spot from a week ago to No. 6 in the country.
The state’s positivity rate essentially held steady at 9.9% from 10.0% the prior week. Oklahoma’s national positivity ranking rose to No. 3 from No. 5.
A third of the state — 25 counties — remain in the red for high levels of virus transmission. Two-thirds of the state have moderate to high levels of spread, or 52 counties.
“Ensuring mask utilization statewide will prevent unnecessary transmission and deaths in vulnerable communities,” the task force states.
The latest Oklahoma report is dated Sept. 20 and is based on data from Sept. 12-18. The state releases the White House reports at noon Wednesdays.
Oklahoma has exceeded the national average for new weekly cases for eight consecutive weeks and test positivity for 11 consecutive weeks. The state has been in the White House’s red zone for new weekly cases for 11 straight weeks and twice since June 29 for test positivity.
The task force now has introduced orange in its report as a color level between yellow and red. Red and orange both represent high levels of spread, while yellow depicts moderate transmission.
The state’s test positivity is in the orange and, if that category had existed previously, Oklahoma would have been in it or the red since the July 14 report.
September on pace for ‘our worst month’
OSU Center for Health Sciences hosts a COVID-19 response meeting each Wednesday morning. The virtual session is part of its Project ECHO (Extension for Community Health Care Outcomes) to bring medical education and care management to rural and under-served areas.
Project Echo team member Dr. Jennifer Clark on Wednesday said cases are “rapidly rising” in Oklahoma.
“If you look at the trends from month to month, September is well on its way to being our worst month in Oklahoma,” Clark said.
Clark explained that on Tuesday the state hit a similar seven-day case trend compared to its peak in July. She said the trend is likely to increase without changes to major public health efforts after Labor Day weekend, along with the resumption of fall sports and large gatherings.
She also noted that “probably week after next” is when Oklahoma will start seeing a related increase in COVID-19 deaths. The seven-day moving average of deaths in the state peaked at 10.4 per day at the end of August and is now down to 6.6 as of Wednesday.
“So until we get through the Labor Day weekend surge, which we probably won’t see the full impact of for another couple weeks, and the continued additive effect of large public gatherings, we may see this continue to go up for the foreseeable future unless there are different efforts put into place to limit some of those public gatherings,” Clark said.
Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday told reporters that Oklahoma’s mortality rate per capita is 60% below the national average and 14th lowest in the country based on CDC’s COVID data tracker.
However, that is a cumulative look since Jan. 21, with Oklahoma’s first confirmed case not appearing until March 6.
The White House task force analyzes COVID-19 death rates per capita by week, not cumulatively. The report pegged Oklahoma’s mortality rate from Sept. 12-18 in its newly created orange category and 24% below the U.S. rate — also in the orange.
The task force doesn’t rank states by mortality rate as it does for new cases and test positivity.
Stitt said that Oklahoma’s hospitalizations remain below 5% of all of the active cases in the state.
“We continue to have adequate capacity in our hospitals, but we still want obviously those numbers to continue to go down,” Stitt said.
Clark said hospitalizations as a fraction of active cases recently has hovered at about 5%, which is good but not without caveats.
The number of COVID-19 inpatients who comprise that 5% grows as the total active case count continues to climb.
“We’ve held steady with regards to that (5%), but as you can imagine when you get out of percentages and get into raw numbers, that starts getting a little bit tight for our health care system,” Clark said.
Areas in red, orange and yellow
For the second straight week, the coronavirus task force has softened its stance on its recommendation since Aug. 9 to close bars.
The report suggests that red and orange zones — or high levels of disease transmission — use “standard metrics” to determine school learning options and capacity for bars and indoor dining.
Oklahoma has 12 metro areas in the red: Tulsa, Muskogee, Stillwater, Enid, McAlester, Guymon, Miami, Durant, Fort Smith, Weatherford, Elk City and Woodward.
There are 15 counties in red: Tulsa, Muskogee, Payne, Garfield, Rogers, Le Flore, Pittsburg, Texas, Ottawa, Bryan, McCurtain, Sequoyah, Okmulgee, Custer, Atoka, Caddo, Mayes, Beckham, Woodward, Haskell, Woods, Hughes, Choctaw, Dewey and Alfalfa.
The two metros in orange are Shawnee and Bartlesville. There are 13 orange counties: Canadian, Pottawatomie, Craig, McClain, Washington, Osage, Delaware, Seminole, Love, Kingfisher, McIntosh, Marshall, and Pushmataha.
Yellow metros are Oklahoma City, Tahlequah, Lawton, Ardmore, Duncan and Ada.
There are 14 counties in yellow: Oklahoma, Cleveland, Cherokee, Grady, Wagoner, Creek, Comanche, Adair, Stephens, Pontotoc, Carter, Garvin, Johnston and Blaine.
Oklahoma’s new cases
The numbers signify the rate per 100,000 people. Red zone is 100 and above; yellow zone is 10 to 100
Sept. 20: 175 (86 national average; 6th highest in U.S.)
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 test positivity rate
Red zone is 10% and above; yellow zone is 5% to 10%
Sept. 20: 9.9% (4.4% national rate; 3rd highest in U.S.)
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 coronavirus.health.ok.gov/white-house-coronavirus-task-force
Source: White House Coronavirus Task Force reports
Video: Sept. 17 response from Gov. Stitt on White House report
Gallery: COVID-19 basics
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