Cases of coronavirus continued to spread across the state in the first week of the new year as the vaccine rollout picked up pace in Oklahoma.
On Friday, the state recorded its largest daily case increase, adding more than 5,200 cases to bring the total to more than 320,000 cases since the virus was first recorded in March. The death toll from COVID-19 rose to 2,703 Oklahomans, according to the latest snapshot from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
In the first week of 2021, Oklahoma reported 214 deaths, surpassing the monthly death totals from each of the first five months of the pandemic. (Because of reporting lags, it’s not clear if all of those deaths happened this year.)
Meanwhile, active coronavirus cases reached a new high at 37,453 on Friday and COVID-19 hospitalizations hovered close to 2,000 per day in the past week across Oklahoma.
State health officials said more than 110,000 Oklahomans had received the first of the two-shot COVID-19 vaccines by Friday afternoon. The state rolled out a new vaccine web portal that allows users to sign up for their place in the vaccine rollout and get notifications of when appointments for vaccinations are available for their particular group. More than 250,000 people had registered since the portal went live on Thursday.
Oklahoma started vaccinating health care workers before Christmas and a federal program for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities also began late last year. The state has four phases of vaccine distribution, but the vaccine supply is dependent on shipments from the Operation Warp Speed program run by the federal government. (Story continues below)
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“On Tuesdays, we get notified of how much vaccine we’re going to get for the following week,” said Keith Reed, deputy commissioner at the state health department. “We align appointments based off of what we know we have in inventory and what we’re receiving.”
Reed reminded Oklahomans to keep heeding the now-standard public health advice of wearing a mask, watching social distance and washing hands.
“The vaccine is just one part of a successful COVID-19 response, and combining it with other precautions will help keep more Oklahoma and safe,” he said.
An Oklahoma Watch analysis of active coronavirus cases by ZIP code showed Ardmore as an emerging hotspot in the past week. The 73401 ZIP code in Ardmore almost doubled its active case count to 600, the biggest increase in the state for the past week. Other places with large increases were ZIP codes in Yukon, Edmond and Tahlequah.
ZIP codes in Yukon, Broken Arrow, Ardmore and Moore had the largest number of total active cases as of Friday. All of those places had more than 500 active coronavirus cases. The state considers a case active if a person has had a positive test in the past 14 days or is seeking COVID-19 treatment in the hospital.
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Oklahoma Watch reporters asked voters how well they were being represented by elected leaders and what else they wanted state officials to know.
When Oklahoma voters went to the polls for Tuesday’s primary elections, Oklahoma Watch reporters met them at precincts in Arcadia, El Reno, Luther, Moore, northwest and south Oklahoma City, and Tahlequah.