Epidemiologist Warns Oklahoma's Delta Variant–Driven COVID Surge Is Not Waning

Aug 20, 2021

Credit National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

A former state health official warns Oklahoma has not hit its peak for the COVID-19 surge driven by the Delta variant.

OU epidemiologist Dr. Aaron Wendelboe said according to his model — which considers factors like vaccination rates, mask wearing and kids returning to school — transmission of the virus has more than doubled since June, and reported new infections and hospitalizations will continue to rise at least through August.

Wendelboe said other researchers are seeing information that supports that, including OU’s team testing wastewater samples for the coronavirus.

"They are seeing higher levels of virus in the wastewater than they've ever detected during the whole COVID pandemic. And so, it absolutely underscores and agrees with the same message that we're seeing a peak surge and a lot of transmission, and we really need to flatten that curve. We need to [wear masks] and we need to vaccinate," Wendelboe said.

Wendelboe said with fewer health care workers now than in winter, Oklahoma hospitals have hit crisis levels with fewer COVID patients. He’s urging people to once again "flatten the curve" by getting vaccinated and wearing masks.

"One of my loved ones had surgery last week, two days ago woke up in excruciating pain, had to go to the emergency room, and it was completely full. He and other people were just waiting out in hallways," Wendelboe said.

The state’s current seven-day average of new cases is 2,200, and there are officially 20,483 active infections. Wendelboe maintains as he has throughout the pandemic that there may be up to five times as many unreported cases.

The latest three-day average of hospitalizations is 1,380, including 56 children. Of those patients, 368 are in intensive care units.