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Doctors discuss new COVID strain, warn of holiday surge

Posted at 10:33 PM, Dec 29, 2020

TULSA, Okla. — Another grim COVID-19 milestone for the U.S. and Oklahoma.

Colorado is reporting the first known U.S. case of a new strain of COVID-19. This comes one day after Oklahoma saw a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations. 1,927 COVID patients were hospitalized Monday night.

READ MORE: Colorado officials identify first case of COVID-19 variant seen in UK

The Oklahoma State Department of Health website shows all Oklahoma hospitals are in tier three of the state’s surge plan.

“We’re stretched," said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU Chief COVID Officer. "We have more covid patients in the hospital today than we’ve ever had.”

The Oklahoma State Dept. of Health website shows all Oklahoma hospitals are in tier three of the state’s surge plan. These numbers are worrying doctors as people travel for the holidays.

"In 10 days to 14 days we’re going to see a substantial surge in the number of cases in Oklahoma that get reported," Dr. Bratzler said. "And per David Kendrick’s data in the past, 10 to 12 percent of those people are going to end up in a hospital.”

Another concern is new strains of COVID-19, including one found in the U.K., now traveling around the world, with the first known U.S. case found in Colorado Tuesday.

Dr. George Diaz is the Infections Prevention Manager at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash. He was the first to diagnose a patient with COVID-19 in the U.S. Speaking with the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition COVID-19 Task Force Tuesday afternoon, he said the new strains are more contagious and are infecting more children.

“Thankfully, they haven’t reported any increases in mortality to date," Dr. Diaz said. "So it’s causing more infections within that country. More hospitalizations. And it’s responsible for the surges occurring there.”

Dr. Diaz said the vaccine is still effective against the new variations of COVID. Doctors said at least 70 percent of the population needs the vaccine to have herd immunity. If not, it could be similar to the flu vaccine.

“This may be a mechanism by which, you know, over time, much like the flu vaccine, we take yearly as new variants identified," Dr. Diaz said. "We may have yearly new COVID vaccines that we’ll be taking to better match the circulating strains that are occurring worldwide.”

So far, about 30,000 Oklahomans have received the vaccine. Doctors encourage everyone to continue following the three W’s - wash your hands - watch your distance - and wear a mask.

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