More National Coverage Of Oklahoma's Hospital Crisis; Lawton ICU Over 100% Capacity

Nov 18, 2020

Oklahoma continues to attract attention from national news networks due to the severity of its COVID-19 pandemic.

ABC News' World News Tonight and Good Morning America were in Lawton Tuesday, reporting from the COVID-19 ward at Comanche County Memorial Hospital, where Chief Medical Officer Dr. Scott Michener said they were operating at over 100% ICU capacity.

"We've had a day last week where we were down to one ventilator. We had a day this weekend where we pulled a ventilator out of an ambulance and put someone on a transport ventilator," Michener told ABC correspondent Matt Gutman.

"The problem is everywhere else is full, so when someone comes in the hospital and they need ICU care, there's nowhere to send them," Michener said.

"What happens if a bus crashes on the interstate, and there's a whole bunch of people who need intensive care?" Gutman asked.

"Then you see all these people that are doing the groundwork, they do more," Michener said, tearing up. "It's all you can do."

"This is what keeps you up at night?" Gutman asked.

"I'm not sleeping very well these days," said Michener, through tears.

Gutman also interviewed retired Comanche County judge and current Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board member Allen McCall, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 at the facility. He described hearing nurses respond to dying patients.

"I quit counting [at] 17 'code blues,' because I thought I was getting ready to be 18," McCall said. "I just had tears running down my face because I didn't know how my family would deal with that. And I saw those nurses just continually charge back in there every time."

Lawton's COVID-19 situation may grow worse still. The US Army's Fort Sill in Comanche County expects thousands of personnel to travel home for the holidays and return from around the country.

"You know, we do expect to see an increase in COVID cases on return, and so what we're asking folks is to, you know, take those prudent measures to protect yourself and others," said Commanding General Kenneth Kamper in a Facebook Live town hall.

Gov. Kevin Stitt, who earlier this month referred to those expressing concern over Oklahoma's hospital capacity as "fearmongering," did not return a request for comment about the ABC News stories on the situation in Lawton.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum appeared on MSNBC last week, expressing considerable frustration with Stitt for not issuing a statewide mask mandate to help mitigate hospital capacity issues in Tulsa, which last week experienced a period of having no ICU beds available at any hospital in the city.