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Former State Epidemiologist Estimates Nearly Half Of Oklahomans Have Some COVID Immunity

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Health experts said Tuesday Oklahoma’s declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations appear to be the real deal.

Speaking at a virtual update of the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition, former state epidemiologist Dr. Aaron Wendelboe said testing is down, but so is the positivity rate, indicating spread is not significantly worse than known. And after more than a month of declines, Oklahoma has hit an important milestone: a new case rate of fewer than 20 per 100,000 residents.

"I’m already estimating that we’re getting pretty close to about 50% of Oklahomans have some form of immunity, either through vaccination or through prior exposure, and that— you know, again, as long as vaccination continues, there’s no reason why we can’t exceed that herd immunity threshold," Wendelboe said.

State health officials said nearly 800,000 doses of vaccine have been administered to date. More than 420,000 infections have been confirmed.

Wendelboe said there will be key indicators the state is closing in on herd immunity.

"If we get below one case per 100,000, get below 5% testing positivity rate, health departments are able to conduct case and contact investigation in a very timely, targeted manner — all of these things work together to stop the transmission of COVID in Oklahoma," Wendelboe said.

For now, Oklahomans are urged to continue taking steps like wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, even if they’ve been vaccinated. The main benefit of being vaccinated is a lower risk of severe COVID-19.

Six states recently saw increases in cases, and experts are concerned about more-contagious variants of the coronavirus becoming more prevalent in the U.S.

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