An outbreak at the Oklahoma County Detention Center and hotspots in Chandler and Enid were among the state’s most active places for coronavirus infections this week.
The latest hotspots come as the state recorded 644 deaths from COVID-19, including more than 100 deaths in the last two weeks.
Overall, Oklahoma has had almost 47,000 coronavirus infections since the outbreak began in March. More than 6,970 cases were active by Friday, the Oklahoma State Department of Health said.
Almost 150 inmates at the Oklahoma County jail have tested positive since July 1. The ZIP code that contains the jail had the week’s largest increase in active cases, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of health department data. The 73102 ZIP code had 130 active cases as of Friday, an increase of 66 from a week ago. The Chandler ZIP code had a large increase in active cases, going from 7 a week ago to 44 on Friday. Enid area ZIP codes also recorded large increases for the week.
The state didn’t have ZIP code data for 144 active cases, but many of those are likely in rural areas. Because of privacy concerns, health officials don’t provide detailed case information for ZIP codes with fewer than 100 people.
Interim Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye on Thursday issued a public health advisory to speed up test reporting and recommended face coverings in counties with higher levels of infection. On Friday, the state added four more counties to the orange, or moderate, risk level. There are 27 counties now in the orange zone, including Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.
“The Oklahoma State Department of Health will continue to develop its data collection system to better deliver advanced analytics and to strengthen the state’s management of COVID-19,” Frye said at a press conference in Tulsa.
Oklahoma’s coronavirus response has attracted attention from both Congress and the White House. Gov. Kevin Stitt responded on Wednesday to a letter by Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus expressing concern with rising cases in Oklahoma and the lack of a mask mandate. Stitt told Clyburn the state recommends face coverings but won’t mandate it and has left the decision to cities and counties. He also touted the increase in testing since the state fully reopened on June 1.
“Chairman Clyburn, I believe as Americans we can all agree that every life is valuable,” Stitt wrote. “We do not want COVID-19 to take another life. We also do not want another family to lose their household income and the roof over their heads. We do not want isolation, and the undue mental health challenges it brings, to rob the quality of life of another loved one.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, is expected to visit Tulsa on Sunday as part of a multistate tour. President Donald Trump previously said Birx would “deliver aggressive, tailored and targeted guidance” for the coronavirus response in Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas and Kansas. Birx was in Nebraska on Friday.
Methodology: Oklahoma Watch calculated the weekly active cases for each ZIP code in the state by taking the number of new COVID-19 cases since Aug. 7 and subtracting the number of deaths and recoveries in that ZIP code. The Oklahoma State Department of Health considers a patient “recovered” if they are out of a 14-day period, are not in the hospital and have not died. The recovered designation is not a reflection of any single patient’s ongoing health conditions from an infection.
Look up active COVID-19 cases in your ZIP code
Paul Monies has been a reporter with Oklahoma Watch since 2017. He covers state agencies and public health. Call or text him at (571) 319-3289 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @pmonies.