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Delta Is More Contagious, But There's Not Enough Data To Judge Its Severity In Oklahoma

Image from the Centers for Disease Control
COVID-19 tests performed in the last 7 days per 100,000 people. Oklahoma is at the lowest testing level with 515.5 tests

The Delta variant of COVID-19 is more transmissible, but experts are still debating whether it’s more severe.


Dr. David Kendrick, CEO of nonprofit MyHealth Access Network, said we know how many people are seriously ill in the hospital, but we don’t know how many people have COVID overall since testing is low. 


“I desperately hope for and wish we had some population surveillance going on, where we were randomly sampling in each zip code or each county so we could say what the background incidence of this is,” said Kendrick.


One way to get better surveillance, Kendrick said, would be to test people at well visits, as if they were having blood pressure checked.


Kendrick said the jury is still out for him on Delta’s severity, but it’s for sure that people who test positive now are more likely to go to the hospital.


“Certainly, of the people presenting for testing, a higher percentage of people with a positive test are being admitted to the hospital,” said Kendrick. "We ought to do the things we know work now. We've had a year to learn. Can't say whether Delta is more severe. But the facts on the ground are hospital beds are filling, and in particular ICU beds are filling."


Though there have been stories of young people being more vulnerable to Delta, the risk remains highest for older people who are unvaccinated. About half of 65+ people who test positive are being admitted to the hospital.


“Just as ever is the case, in the 65 and up crowd, if they’re not vaccinated, there is potentially a significant problem in their future. They are at a 45% admission rate, and have been at that or higher since April,” said Kendrick.


As of July 19th, the state department of health reports that the seven day average COVID-19 case count for Oklahoma is 512.