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Oklahoma Health Department Developing New Virus Alert Plan

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Chris Polansky
/
KWGS News
Col. Lance Frye, Commissioner of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, speaks at a lectern during an Aug. 13th press conference in Tulsa, as Gov. Kevin Stitt (left) looks on.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Department of Health is working to revise the state’s COVID-19 alert system, which some state health officials have said is not “helpful” for areas at high risk due to the coronavirus pandemic, health department spokesperson Rob Crissinger said Wednesday.

Planned changes in the alert system, first reported by the Tulsa World, are being made so local and state health officials can work more closely, according to Crissinger.

“They can work in tandem with the updated hospital surge plan and be a better resource for everyone,” from the state to the local level, Crissinger said. 

Dr. Dale Bratzler, chief COVID officer for the University of Oklahoma Medical Center and Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart have said the four-tiered system announced in July and based on statewide hospitalization rates does not reflect regional outbreaks of the virus and hospitalizations in specific areas.

“If you look at the state alert system, it’s based on a statewide metric for hospital beds which, from a regional concept, isn’t going to be very helpful for us because if our hospitals are exceeding capacity here, and there are hospital beds elsewhere, we still won’t meet the high risk, or red, category,” Dart said during a recent news conference.

The current alert system ranges from green, or “new normal,” to red, or high risk. 

The system says a county will be deemed high risk if it has more than 14.39 daily new cases per 100,000 people and if the state has less that 5% intensive care unit hospital beds; less than 5% medical surgery beds; less than 5% of ventilators available; or less than five days of personal protective equipment available.

The health department on Wednesday reported 18% of ICU beds and 20% medical surgery beds and 64% of ventilators are available and an 18 day supply of PPE on hand.