With a surge in COVID-19 deaths since last week, Oklahoma now ranks 18th highest in the nation in the rate of coronavirus deaths.

Taking population into account, deaths were highest in New York, with 6.3 deaths per 100,000 residents, followed by Louisiana, Washington, New Jersey and Vermont, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project and U.S. Census Bureau estimates of state population from July 2019, the latest available.

Oklahoma ranked 18th with 0.43 deaths per 100,000 residents. (Oklahoma ranks 28th in total population.) According to Oklahoma State Department of Health data released Monday, 17 people have died in Oklahoma from the coronavirus. Just a week earlier, on March 23, two people were reported to have died. 

All but two states had reported deaths from COVID-19 as of Monday, COVID Tracking Project data shows. Only Hawaii and Wyoming had no deaths. New York had the most with 1,218 deaths, followed by New Jersey (198), Washington (195) and Louisiana (185).

How high coronavirus deaths will go in Oklahoma and the nation is unclear. But at least one predictive modeling scenario paints a grim picture.

The White House is expected to release details of its own modeling projections on Tuesday, although it’s unclear if they will include a state-by-state breakdown. But the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation latest models lay out a sobering picture for Oklahoma. The institute’s model puts Oklahoma’s peak number of deaths coming on April 22, with 42 deaths a day based on current data. The model estimates the state could see more than 1,100 total COVID-19 deaths by August. Such models are based on a multitude of data points and assumptions and are continually revised.

Officials have convened a panel of epidemiological experts from the state Health Department and state universities to work on modeling for future peaks of the pandemic as infections rise in Oklahoma. Gov. Kevin Stitt said he’s also talked to other governors to see how they’re approaching the best models for their states.  

“We’re still getting our arms around it; it’s changing so rapidly as we’re getting more and more tests online, as we’re watching what’s happening in other states and other countries,” Stitt said at a news conference on Friday. “Those factors all feed into our model. We’re just trying to finalize where we think our peak’s going to be, when we think our peak is going to be, and that will drive our decision making on hospital beds, ventilators, the PPE burn rates we’re looking at, our ordering, everything falls on where we’re going to land on the modeling side.”

The state health department has released only basic information about deaths related to COVID-19. Eleven of the 17 deaths were people aged 65 and over, the age group at highest risk for the disease. Five others were between the ages of 50 and 64, and one was between ages 36 and 49. Ten men and seven women have died.


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