As Oklahoma continues to break records for COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates, the Oklahoma Hospital Association is pleading with the public to keep the state's health care system from being overwhelmed.
"Currently, hospital bed capacity is tight in a number of regions. There are a number of things the public can do now to lessen this strain and preserve vital health care resources, as well as save lives," OHA says in a statement.
The association asks Oklahomans to wear a mask at all times in all public settings, avoid large gatherings, keep social distance at all times, wash hands frequently, and get vaccinated against the flu.
"This is more important this year than ever before because the COVID-19 and influenza combination is very dangerous and could further strain hospitals," the statement reads.
The Oklahoman has reported that Oklahoma City has had zero intensive care beds for COVID patients at multiple times this week.
OHA's statement also notes that Oklahoma hospitals have had staffing issues long before the pandemic.
"Oklahoma has been in the midst of a shortage of nurses and heath care professionals for some time," it reads. "This shortage is exacerbated during a pandemic, especially as private agencies work to redeploy nurses to other hot spots around the country at a high rate of pay. In addition, during a pandemic, hospitals will have a number of their own personnel quarantined and unable to care for patients at any given time due to exposure."
Responding to capacity concerns on a weekly Project ECHO COVID-19 virtual update organized by the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, Oklahoma Air National Guard Lt. Col. Robert Griffin, working with the state on its pandemic response, said the Oklahoma State Department of Health is keeping an eye on things.
"OSDH is actively monitoring that, so they are watching this, and they are in meetings with the [Oklahoma] Hospital Association and hospital CEOs on these capacity issues," Griffin said. "So they're watching and actively monitoring that. So rest assured that they are looking at that. It's not something that's going to slip through the cracks."
OHA's statement says Oklahomans should still seek hospital care as needed, and not to avoid hospitals in times of medical necessity.