TULSA, Okla. — The Oklahoma State Department of Health said COVID cases are rising as the Delta variant continues to spread.
Vaccinations are also on the rise. OSDH said vaccinations increased 121 percent from the first week of July to the first week of August. 50 percent of Oklahomans have received at least one COVID vaccine dose, but only about 41 percent are fully vaccinated.
“If you are not vaccinated at this time, you are at significant risk from COVID-19," said Dr. Lance Frye, state commissioner of health.
Dr. Frye said, so far for August, 98 percent of new COVID cases and 93 percent of hospitalizations are those who are unvaccinated.
The Delta variant is proving to be the most widespread strain.
“Right now, the Delta variant accounts for 70 percent of sequenced cases in Oklahoma," said Dr. Gitanjali Pai, chief medical officer at OSDH.
Gov. Kevin Stitt approved emergency rules from the health department on Thursday. With these rules, Dr. Frye said they’re able to do what they did under the previous emergency declaration.
The rules include enabling hospitals to report COVID breakthrough infections, requires providers to electronically submit numbers to OSDH for more real-time data and requires labs and providers to submit at least 10 percent of positive samples to the public health lab.
Dr. Frye said they’re also working to address the staffing shortage seen in hospitals around the state.
“We realize that the number we have from the previous surge is probably not the same as it is now because they’ve had nurses leave the state, they may have had people leave the profession," Dr. Frye said. "People are just mentally and physically exhausted and some of them don’t want to do that right now.”
Dr. Frye said he’s not sure an emergency declaration is needed at this time. Governor Stitt would have to make that declaration in order for schools to be able to mandate masks. Dr. Frye wouldn’t weigh in on the school mask mandate debate, but did say masks are recommended.
“What we do know is that we are contenting to recommend mask-wearing to anyone that’s in a situation where they feel like it needs to be done," Dr. Frye said. "And we know that, for instance, our unvaccinated children from five to 12 are at risk so we would recommend them to be wearing masks.”
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