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Local Health System Leaders Predict Another Post-Holiday COVID-19 Spike

Tulsa Regional Chamber
Doug Williams, Saint Francis Health System Senior Vice President, on a virtual panel hosted by the Tulsa Regional Chamber on Dec. 18.

Local health system leaders predict the Christmas and New Years holidays will trigger another spike in COVID-19 infections, atop the current surge likely linked to Thanksgiving.

"With holidays, we've seen spikes and surges of infection in our communities," said Dr. Jeffrey Galles, chief medical officer of Hillcrest's Utica Park Clinic on a virtual COVID-19 forum hosted by the Tulsa Regional Chamber. "We saw it after Memorial Day, after the Fourth of July. We saw the same thing after Labor Day. And now we're really in the midst of a new surge after Thanksgiving holidays."

Galles said he believes individuals may drop their guard during holidays, not masking, distancing and hand-washing as much as in their day-to-day lives.

"It's those holidays when we want to be with our families, when we want to be with our friends, that are really the biggest challenges for us to prevent the spread of this illness," Galles said. "And I think, that being said, right now what we're seeing in our hospitals is kind of the end result of our inability to help manage this."

Doug Williams, senior vice president at Saint Francis Health System and the hospital administrator for Saint Francis Hospital, agreed that holidays have been tied to surges, which could cause even more strain on the already overwhelmed local health care system.

"If you look across not only Tulsa but Oklahoma, the hospitals are full," Williams said. "They have little to no ICU capacity. They have little to no [medical-surgical] capacity. And you see Oklahomans being transferred from Oklahoma to surrounding states that have capacity as we're in this surge."

Despite CDC guidance against traveling for the holidays, more than 7 million Americans passed through airport security checkpoints last week.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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