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Healthier Oklahoma Coalition discusses omicron variant, COVID case numbers increasing

Posted at 6:04 PM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 19:31:07-05

TULSA, Okla. — Doctors with the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition met Tuesday afternoon to discuss the latest COVID-19 updates in the state.

They said that some COVID numbers are increasing; however, it’s still a little too early to tell if Thanksgiving is leading to case numbers going up.

“I think that we still have a little bit of time to see whether or not we’re going to see a true increase or if we’re seeing a plateau-type phase," said Jolianne Stone, state epidemiologist. "We’ve been seeing a little bit of a plateau since the middle of November

Stone said the state’s 7-day rolling average did increase slightly. However, the positivity rate is decreasing.

“So, the count of those infectious is continuing to rise even though the positivity rate is going down," said Dr. David Kendric, CEO of MyHealth Access Network. "And that indicates that we’re having a lot of testing happening, which is diluting or bringing more negatives into the pool and lowering the positivity some more.”

Doctors also discussed the omicron variant. So far, it’s been found in at least 18 states. It has not been found in Oklahoma yet. However, doctors said it’s possible it’s already here. There are still a lot of questions surrounding it.

“Will our vaccines be fine?" said Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. "What do we need to do? How risky is it? How deadly is it? How spreadable is it? And we’re not 100 percent sure yet, but we do know that it is easier to spread.”

Stone said the Oklahoma State Department of Health is sequencing COVID samples on a weekly basis. This will help them identify the omicron variant if and when it’s here.

Meanwhile, hospital numbers are also slightly rising. But for hospitals, even the slightest increase may be a problem.

“It’s not a huge increase for our hospitals because we’re talking, you know, that’s all across the state," said Lawanna Halstead, vice president of quality and clinical initiatives for the Oklahoma Hospital Association. "It is a concern because hospitals are still struggling with staffing issues. They’re trying to care for all patients not just covid patients.”

Flu season is also mixing in with COVID. Data shows there’s a significant difference in flu numbers from last year to this year.

“You see where we peaked out in late October [2020], early November [2020] never to come up again," Dr. Kendrick said. "And already we’re well beyond that in this year’s flu season. And I think that’s to be expected. We don’t have the same public health measures in place."

Dr. Kendrick said data also shows that while cases in most age groups were rising, they’ve started going down over the past several days. Except for preschool-age kids which are still seeing a slight increase in numbers.

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