Most Tulsa County zip codes indicate an “extreme risk” of COVID-19 spread

TULSA, Okla. — Most zip codes in Tulsa County are now indicating an “extreme risk” of COVID-19 spread within them thanks in large part to the highly contagious Omicron variant moving across the country.

The map that is updated weekly on Wednesdays compiled the latest data the Tulsa Health Department receives from various sources and is meant to show where COVID spread is concentrated within the county, but THD Director Dr. Bruce Dart said nearly every zip code is seeing high rates of infection.

“I would say this is the worst we’ve ever seen it in the entire pandemic,” Dart said.

Community spread is so high in Tulsa County right now that Dart said it was impossible to narrow down places like schools, churches, or businesses as being the primary place where people are contracting Omicron. He said all of those places and other mass and group settings are risky at this time.

Lines for testing at some places in Tulsa County have grown to see wait times between three to six hours in some places, but this is not unique to Tulsa County or even Oklahoma.

“Everyone is dealing with this right now,” Dart said. “It’s not just us, and it is putting the system to the test.”

At-home test kits are flying off store shelves the minute they come in in the Tulsa metro, but if someone is willing to drive 45 minutes to one hour outside of town, some smaller communities have some in stock at places like gas stations.

Dart said people have messaged him and other THD employees wondering if they should have group get-togethers because Omicron has reported to have mild symptoms in many of the people who contract it. Dart said he responded back by telling people to not intentionally spread COVID to each other because there are no guarantees in how it will play out in someone’s body, especially when the unvaccinated are the primary ones needing hospitalization with Omicron.

“In the vaccinated there are mostly mild symptoms,” he said. “But even then, some cases have more symptoms than others. It just depends on how COVID acts in the body. The unvaccinated have been struggling with Omicron the most.”

Dart, like other health leaders in Oklahoma, are pleading with Oklahomans to stay in line for as long as it takes to get a test, but pleaded do not seek a test in the emergency room of a hospital. As FOX23 has reported, hospital wait times have skyrocketed in the past week and a half because people started going to E.R.s for COVID tests after they couldn’t find any at-home kits but wanted a test immediately.

Medical professionals are also reminding people that at-home test kits are never reported to the state to be a part of the official positive case count, and so the number of people sick right now is likely around three times the actual number of people showing up at a health care provider, urgent care, or another kind of testing site to find out their results.

Dart said people using at-home kits should use them as a primary indicator of if they may have a COVID infection, but then they should confirm with with a PCR test which is more accurate.

“The PCR test is the gold standard of tests,” he said. “If you can get a PCR test, that’s what we’d prefer.”

He said he understood why some people would simply trust their at-home kit and remain at home instead of going out for a second opinion though because of the long lines and the fact that something has already told them they are COVID positive.

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