Health Officials Confirm Oklahoma's First COVID-19 Death in Tulsa County

Mar 19, 2020

Merle Dry, 55, was identified by Metro Pentecostal Church as the first person in Oklahoma to die from COVID-19.
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A Tulsa County resident has died due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

According to the Tulsa Health Department, a man in his 50s who tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday died from complications of the illness on Wednesday.

Facebook posts by Metro Pentecostal Church identified the man as 55-year-old Merle Dry and said he died at 8:01 p.m. Wednesday after being admitted to a hospital Sunday with double pneumonia.

His illness was confirmed as COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Dry is survived by his wife, Carrie, who is a teacher, a 22-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter, according to the church.

The health department investigation did not find any link between Dry's illness and travel, confirming the new coronavirus that caused it is spreading in the community. Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart said people must heed warnings to stay at home and avoid large gatherings.

"We have to come together about staying apart, and we have to do it now. There’s no timeframe here, we’re at critical mass. We have virus spreading in our community," Dart said.

Dart said with the state critically low on testing supplies, social distancing, hand washing and other preventive measures are more important than ever.

"The number of lab-confirmed cases will continue to not be reflective of the number of individuals who are likely to be infected with COVID-19," Dart said.

Oklahoma is up to 44 reported cases of COVID-19, with five in Tulsa County. That includes one man who recovered.