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"We Are Not Out Of The Woods": Experts Warn Of COVID-19 Spikes In Oklahoma And Beyond

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CDC
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Percent change in cases between June 15th and June 21st from previous seven days. Darker green counties are experiencing increases of over 25%. Tulsa County is outlined in red.

Cases of COVID-19 are rising in Oklahoma and Tulsa County. Public health officials say it’s likely because of the Delta variant.

 

“We are looking at a very quick doubling rate. If you remember back to the early stages of the pandemic, and the whole concept of exponential growth, we’re right back into that world again with regard to this variant,” said Dr. Jennifer Clark of Oklahoma State University’s Project ECHO. “It’s doubling in a matter of days to a week.” 

 

The state first started publishing statistics on variants in early May. According to the latest state epidemiology report, there are currently 41 cases of Delta in Oklahoma. Oklahoma has been slow to ramp up its testing to identify variants, so this number is likely low.

 

Vaccinations will protect against breakthrough infections of the variant, though how Delta impacts vaccines is still being researched. 

 

“We are seeing breakthroughs,” said Clark. “To what extent is still being measured. We don’t know. 

 

The one thing that’s wickedly important for everyone to know is that, regardless, it’s extremely important that you have the vaccine. The vaccine may not prevent you from manifesting the disease, but it has demonstrated manifesting of the disease as less severe.” 

 

Delta is more infectious and causes more severe disease than the original, or wild type, strain of COVID-19.

 

Between June 15th and June 21st, COVID cases in Tulsa County rose 58%. Hospitalizations are down 17% in the same amount of time. Cases and hospitalizations are up overall in Oklahoma.

 

The increase is likely related to outbreaks that have been brewing in surrounding states. 

 

Vaccinations are up across the country, however. On June 17th, over 2 million people in the country got a shot. No one is sure why, but officials are speculating.

 

“No one knows if this was just a blip,” said Clark. She said it may have to do with parents getting vaccinated along with their 12-to-15-year-old children.

 

“The other effort that we’ve had is going into communities. Whether it be churches or schools or other places where people live and breathe to make it easier to access,” said Clark.

 

COVID-19 cases in the country are low relative to peak times, and community transmission overall is rated yellow, or moderate. 

 

“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Clark.”Wash your hands, wear a mask, take a test, watch your distance, continue to elbow bump. We really need to be mindful of how we’re doing direct contact.”