Oklahoma Health Commissioner: 'A Little too Early' to Say COVID Cases Have Plateaued

Aug 6, 2020

Interim State Commissioner of Health Lance Frye (right) speaks after being appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt in May.
Credit Governor's office

Oklahoma leaders are sending mixed messages on the state’s COVID-19 numbers.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has started saying the state is on a plateau for new cases. Interim State Health Commissioner Lance Frye did not describe it that way in a news conference Thursday.

"I think it’s too early to say whether it’s plateaued or not. There’s different things to look at. If you’re looking at hospitalizations, we seem pretty stable right now. If you’re looking at the number of cases, that’s, that’s — I think it’s a little too early for me to say that," Frye said.

Stitt followed up on Frye’s answer.

"When you talk about a plateau, if we have 560 hospital beds and folks being treated for COVID on March 30 and we’re at 643 today, you can graph that however you want, but we have been bouncing between this number of 550 to 650," Stitt said.

From March 30 to June 1, hospitalizations fell to 124. They have generally climbed since then, and have not been below 500 since mid-July.

It took Oklahoma nearly a month to break 1,000 cases. The state hit 5,000 six weeks after that and 10,000 five weeks later. It took three more weeks to pass 20,000, and about three and a half weeks after that to crack 40,000.

One month ago, Oklahoma had 16,362 cases. As of Thursday, it has 41,401, a 153% increase.

Frye said in any case, testing is making it hard to pin down true case numbers. Labs the state has a contract with generally must turn tests around in 48 hours, but private labs can take longer.

Frye said the health department must confirm positive tests from outside labs are unique after they are processed and reported.

"Those things take some time. So, it’s never real time. When we look back at our recent numbers, we look at it every day, and about 85% , 85% to 88% of those the date the specimen was taken was in the last two weeks," Frye said.

Frye said speeding things up requires building the state’s testing capacity. It can do about 5,000 a day. The rest are done by other labs.