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Healthier OK Coalition want emergency order, say hospitals will soon fill if COVID trends continue

Posted at 7:14 PM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 12:27:00-04

TULSA, Okla. — The federal government announced a change to its COVID recommendations at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. The CDC is now advising mask-wearing in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccine status, in areas with high transmission and in schools.

MORE: CDC recommends vaccinated people wear masks indoors where virus is surging

That update was released moments after Oklahoma’s top health professionals discussed how low vaccine rates are feeding the new surge.

During a virtual meeting Tuesday afternoon, doctors who make up the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition mentioned they are seeing a high number of COVID cases in northeast Oklahoma.

“A lot more red than there used to be in these areas in eastern and northeastern Oklahoma,” said Dr. David Kendrick as he presented slides with graphs showing the surge. “I wish I had better news to give today.”

As the wave pushes westward, the positivity rate in Tulsa is over 17%, Dr. Kendrick warned, and 16.5% statewide. These figures, he said, were last seen in November, when there was no vaccine to help.

“If we were to the point where we were 90% vaccinated, then this discussion we wouldn’t be having today,” Dr. Mary Clarke said, who is the president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

The group agreed Oklahoma’s hospitalized COVID patients are mostly unvaccinated. This and other factors are forcing some state leaders to request an emergency order from the governor.

“Well, we know we need it, but it’s hard. It’s a hard decision for him, it’s a hard decision for the state,” said Dr. Jean Hausheer, chair of the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition.

The state medical association believes an emergency order is needed to enable masking requirements at schools and to help hospitals expand bedspace.

“A hospital cannot just randomly decide ‘I'm going to make a hospital bed outside in the hall.’ That’s not legal. An emergency-use order exempts them from some of these rules,” Dr. Clarke said.

An emergency order would allow hospitals to transform places once again like conference rooms and cafeterias into emergency rooms.

The doctors also say people are not getting tested for the virus until symptoms are severe, which leaves hospitalists fighting a more advanced coronavirus disease.

The 18-49 age group has the most COVID cases in the state.

Last Friday, Governor Kevin Stitt said he does not plan on declaring an emergency. 2 News Oklahoma reached out to his office to see if that position has changed but it has not heard back yet.

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