Outbreaks of coronavirus at prisons in McLoud and Hominy led the week’s hotspots as the number of deaths in Oklahoma passed 700 and cases hit more than 50,000.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections said 107 inmates at Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy were infected with the coronavirus as of Thursday. At Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud, the state’s last remaining female prison, had 115 inmates with the virus, according to data from the department.
ZIP codes for Lexington, Enid and Fort Sill also had large weekly increases in active COVID-19 cases, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Overall, more than 51,700 people in the state have tested positive for coronavirus by Friday. The death toll hit 715, up 11% in the past week. August has seen an acceleration in deaths from COVID-19 in Oklahoma, with 166 deaths reported so far for the month.
Hospitalizations have remained elevated but steady, with an average of 565 people being treated for COVID-19 this week. Patients needing treatment in the Intensive Care Unit also remains high, with almost half of those in hospital each day in the ICU. The state does not release data on where patients are hospitalized.
As many schools go back for the fall semester, the community spread of the virus has complicated plans for many schools and colleges. The state’s weekly alert map of counties with active cases added three more counties to its orange, or “moderate,” level on Friday. That means 30 counties are now in that risk category.
Meanwhile, another unpublished White House report recommended Oklahoma institute a statewide mask mandate, close bars and limit indoor dining at restaurants. The latest report, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, came days after a visit to Oklahoma by Dr. Deborah Birx with the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Birx met with Gov. Kevin Stitt and health officials behind closed doors in Tulsa on Sunday but did not meet with the media, as she has in other states. Stitt has remained recalcitrant about not mandating masks, preferring instead to leave the decision to local officials. That position has raised concerns among many public health officials and health associations, who believe it’s time for a statewide mask mandate.
Paul Monies has been a reporter with Oklahoma Watch since 2017 and covers state agencies and public health. Contact him at (571) 319-3289 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @pmonies.