Lance Frye

Physicians, nurses and health care groups in Oklahoma are expressing concern over the state department of health's recent guidance to allow health care workers infected with COVID-19 but asymptomatic to remain on the job rather than quarantine.

"To me, that seems like the most insane thing," said Dr. Scott Michener, chief medical officer at Comanche County Memorial Hospital in Lawton, on a videoconference with reporters organized by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition on Tuesday.

KWGS News file photo

The strain on Oklahoma’s hospitals continues to grow.

As of Monday night’s count, 1,381 Oklahomans are hospitalized for COVID-19, and 390 are in intensive care units, both the highest they’ve been so far during the pandemic.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum issued a late-night statement Monday following reports from the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) that the city's hospitals had zero ICU beds available and a report from the Oklahoma State Department of Health showing a record-breaking number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized across Oklahoma.

Youtube / Gov. Kevin Stitt

Following a new daily COVID-19 case count on Saturday that more than doubled the previous record, the Oklahoma State Department of Health announced that it would be skipping its daily update for Sunday "to catch up and ensure duplications are removed."

The new statewide infection total released Saturday, 4,741 Oklahomans confirmed to have contracted the disease, eclipsed the previous record of 2,101 set Thursday. On Sunday, the state said it had removed duplicates and adjusted the number; the revised total was reduced slightly, to 4,507.

Youtube / Oklahoma State Department of Health

Republican and Democratic state lawmakers are both expressing concern over Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt's announcement last week that the state's public health lab will be moved from Oklahoma City to Stillwater, using a combination of state funds and federal coronavirus relief funding.

In a Monday press release, Rep. Ryan Martinez (R-Edmond) said he would be filing legislation to keep the lab in the state capital and "question[ed] if this is the best use of CARES Act funds."

Reached by phone Wednesday, Martinez said he first heard about the plan on the news.

Courtesy

State officials announce they’re establishing the Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence in Stillwater, and the state’s public health laboratory will move there with it.

The center’s focus will be bringing together state and tribal, public and private, and urban and rural resources so researchers can get ahead of the next potential infectious disease outbreak.

Pixnio

State health officials believe they’re on their way to getting Oklahoma’s COVID vaccine plan approved by the federal government.

"The CDC was here just a few days ago, and they told us that we will probably be the first state in the nation to go green with their vaccination plan because we’re very close to finishing that up," Interim State Health Commissioner Lance Frye told the State Board of Health on Tuesday.

Frye said they’ve been told at least one vaccine will be ready sometime after Nov. 1.

Facebook / Gov. Kevin Stitt

Look at any number of county-level COVID-19 maps of the United States, like those from the White House and the Harvard Global Health Institute, and you'll see dozens of Oklahoma's counties in red. 

But on the color-coded map issued by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, you won't. Col. Lance Frye, the department's interim commissioner, says that's by design. 

"We said this from day one: It was never meant to confuse people," Frye told reporters at a Thursday news conference. "We've always said their red is our orange."

Facebook / Governor Kevin Stitt

In a Thursday press conference at the Capitol, Gov. Kevin Stitt acknowledged that hundreds of Oklahomans continue to be admitted to hospitals with COVID-19, but touted advancements in medical treatments for those who become infected.

Facebook / Gov. Kevin Stitt

Interim State Health Commissioner Lance Frye told Oklahoma lawmakers while the state is now in a prolonged mitigation phase of handling the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time to start thinking ahead.

"We do need to look forward to what the next decade of public health is going to look like. We know that the prior infrastructure was not invested in. It just couldn’t do the job when it needed to," Frye said Tuesday during an interim study.

Governor's office

Gov. Kevin Stitt has been nothing if not consistent throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: a statewide mask mandate is not on the table for Oklahoma.

"Mandating something statewide is something that we just don't believe in, or I personally don't believe in," Stitt said Tuesday at a press conference in Stillwater.

In recent weeks, Stitt and his cabinet have begun more frequently acknowledging that mask mandates have been effective when implemented by local governments, but that it should be a decision made on the community level.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Gov. Kevin Stitt has consistently opposed mandating masks on a statewide level to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, citing issues of individual freedom, but on Thursday he said he does believe that local-level mask mandates throughout Oklahoma are at least partially responsible for a recent downward trend in new infections.

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.

Department of Defense

Officials at the state health department said they are still working to fix technical issues with its COVID public reporting system, but on Tuesday they announced Oklahoma’s total number of cases stands at 27,147.

There were 893 cases were reported Tuesday. State Health Commissioner Lance Frye said the other 821 were in a digital backlog, and some may offset surprisingly low case numbers reported yesterday and Sunday.