The week after the Thanksgiving holiday in Oklahoma ended with what many public health officials feared, with new highs in COVID-19 death reports, hospitalizations and daily cases.

Meanwhile, new active cases rose the fastest in the past week in both rural and suburban ZIP codes. Among the biggest gains were in ZIP codes in Guthrie, Moore, Oklahoma City and Weatherford, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The state reported more than 4,800 new coronavirus cases on Friday, a new one-day high of the pandemic. But a lag in reporting from the state’s disease-tracking system contributed to some of that spike.

“These totals are far too high. This is a pandemic and we must not grow weary of protecting ourselves, our family and our communities,” said interim Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye. “While we anticipated a rise in cases due to the Thanksgiving holiday, this is of no comfort to the families that are impacted by this highly contagious virus.”

Oklahoma also reported 156 deaths in the past week, including a one-day high of 54 reported deaths on Tuesday. The state doesn’t disclose the dates of each death, but officials said some of the Tuesday death reports stretched back several days and weeks. To date, 1,860 Oklahomans have died from COVID-19, according to the health department.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 hit a new high on Tuesday with 1,782 people being treated. That number fell slightly by Friday, when 1,721 COVID-19 patients were in the hospital. Usage of intensive care unit beds remained high, with 472 of those patients in ICU by Friday.

Against the bleak backdrop of rising cases, deaths and hospitalizations, officials announced on Thursday that an estimated 40,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines would be sent to the state in the next few weeks. First in line for the Moderna or Pfizer coronavirus vaccines will be healthcare workers at hospitals and employees and residents of nursing homes. The Food and Drug Administration has not yet officially approved the use of the two vaccines, each of which comes in two-step doses that have to be stored at subzero temperatures.

The state’s preliminary plan for vaccine distribution envisions four phases, with the last phase getting to the general public some time in late spring or early summer 2021.

“Our vaccine distribution plan has to be very fluid, as there are many unknowns in what lies ahead,” said Keith Reed, deputy health commissioner. “Our goal, at the state and local level, is to remain flexible in the coming weeks as we usher in the first doses of the vaccine and work to distribute it to our most vulnerable populations.”   

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 pmonies@oklahomawatch.org.

Follow him on Twitter @pmonies. 


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Paul Monies

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 pmonies@oklahomawatch.org. Follow him on Twitter @pmonies.