Former State Epidemiologist Warns Oklahoma's Coronavirus Outbreak on Track to Get Much Worse, Fast

Nov 24, 2020

Former state epidemiologist Dr. Aaron Wendelboe said on Tuesday Oklahoma will see COVID cases double and deaths more than double in the next few weeks unless people get serious about measures like wearing masks in public and avoiding large gatherings.

Oklahoma’s former state epidemiologist is part of a coalition sounding the alarm on the coronavirus pandemic heading into the holiday season.

OU College of Public Health professor Dr. Aaron Wendelboe said just since Oct. 1, cases in Oklahoma are up 100%, deaths 60% and hospitalizations 140%. 

"We’re expected to double again by Dec. 15 — that’s less than a month — which represents an estimated 175% increase by New Years Day. Our state is already facing record hospitalizations and deaths. If we do nothing to curb this disease growth, we may see a 140% increase in deaths, representing an additional 2,300 deaths by New Years Day," Wendelboe said at a virtual news conference Tuesday for the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition, a group including doctors, nurses and representatives of state medical groups.

Wendelboe and other members of the coalition urge everyone to wear masks whenever they’re in public, wash their hands frequently and avoid large gatherings to reduce the unchecked spread of the coronavirus.

"If we’re able to reduce the transmission rates similar to where we were at, at the beginning of October, we could prevent about 100,000 COVID cases and about 1,000 deaths. These aren’t just numbers. These are our friends, family, neighbors. Can we really risk the lives of so many Oklahomans?" Wendelboe said.

COVID-19 is currently the third-leading cause of death in the United States.

Wendelboe was state epidemiologist from mid-March to early August, when his contract expired. He had warned state officials ahead of President Trump’s June campaign rally at Tulsa’s BOK Center the event would likely lead to at least two and probably closer to 10 deaths.