Update: This story has been updated to include the latest COVID-19 hospitalization numbers released Friday evening.

Oklahoma is following the national trend of lower daily coronavirus cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19, but it still has the nation’s highest rate for positive tests even as its vaccination rollout continues to earn praise. 

The state saw big weekly declines in its seven-day moving average of new cases, which fell to 2,216 on Friday. The average was 2,604 a week ago. Almost 400,000 Oklahomans have now contracted confirmed cases of the virus since last March.

But reported deaths, a lagging indicator after new cases and hospitalizations, continued at elevated levels this past week. The Oklahoma State Department of Health said 3,710 Oklahomans have died from COVID-19. That included 29 new deaths reported Friday.

The state continued to outperform surrounding states for its pace of vaccinations. Oklahoma has been among the top 10 states in the last several weeks in vaccinating people in the first two of four phases of its vaccination campaign. About 12% of people over 16 have received at least one of the two-shot injections of the approved COVID-19 vaccines. The state had administered 494,000 doses as of Thursday. 

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Keith Reed, deputy health commissioner, said Wednesday that the state next week expects to get a 5% increase in doses from its allocation from the federal government. Eligible Oklahomans can sign up for appointments online at vaccinate.oklahoma.gov.

“We appreciate your patience with this process,” Reed said. “Vaccine supply is still limited, and demand is still very high, which means appointments are limited as well. We are working to increase availabilities as quickly as we can.”


Oklahoma Active COVID-19 Cases By ZIP code


In addition, the state is expected to open up its vaccine program next week to select pharmacy chains, allowing them to schedule and provide vaccines to eligible Oklahomans. Under the federal retail pharmacy program, the state will get 11,300 doses next week distributed to 73 independent pharmacies.

Active cases of coronavirus are at their lowest daily total since mid-November. There were about 26,700 active cases on Friday, down 38% from a high of 43,100 a month ago. An active case is one where a person has had a positive test in the past 14 days or is seeking treatment in the hospital.

(Paul Monies/Oklahoma Watch)

New active cases by ZIP code were muted this week, with just a few communities showing weekly increases in active cases, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of health department data. Among them were ZIP codes in Fort Gibson, Broken Arrow, Ardmore, Purcell and Bartlesville.

Other places with the highest total active cases on Friday were ZIP codes in Broken Arrow, Yukon, Lawton, Ardmore and Moore. Each of those places had more than 400 total active cases. Another 550 active cases weren’t tied to a ZIP code, according to the analysis.

Hospitalization levels continued to improve, with 1,015 people hospitalized for COVID-19 on Friday. Of that total, 303 were in intensive care unit beds. Those are both significantly down from highs in January, when almost 2,000 people were hospitalized and ICU use was at almost 500 beds across the state. 

However, Oklahoma led the nation in positive coronavirus test rates, according to federal data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oklahoma’s test positivity rate was 15.6% on Thursday, slightly ahead of South Carolina and Nevada. At one point in January, Oklahoma’s test positivity rate exceeded 25%.

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

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