OU’s Chief COVID Officer gives an update on the recent rise in COVID-19 cases

TULSA, Okla. — “It was a bad week,” University of Oklahoma Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler said Friday about the growing number of people getting sick with COVID-19 Omicron. “I don’t see next week being any better. In fact, it could be a worse.”

On Friday, the Oklahoma State Department of Health released new daily COVID infection numbers at 6.439 new cases. That’s just 49 cases away from the record number of daily positive cases reported by OSDH during the entire pandemic. That number came around this time last year when the original strain of COVID-19 was causing the first surge on the state’s health care system.

“At home test kits don’t get reported to the state, and so they aren’t included in their official numbers,” Bratzler said. “I always multiply the number by three, and that’s a conservative estimate. That would be for every one positive person reported, there are actually three more out there who are also positive.”

Bratzler said the state’s number don’t account for the fact that children went back to the school this week, many people returned to work, and in the coming weeks, college students will also be returning to their campuses for in-person learning.

“Omicron is just so contagious that it really is spreading quickly and taking hold anywhere people are gathered close together,” he said.

OSDH data shows that Wagoner County is hardest hit community when it comes to new infections. The others are Logan and Cleveland Counties in the Oklahoma City metro and Cimarron County in the panhandle.

Bratzler said even if COVID Omicron symptoms are reported to be mild, the virus has been known to cause additional complications to pre-existing conditions like diabetes.

“There are pre-existing conditions that COVID will cause to flare up, and that’s what you’re really going to deal with, especially in the elderly,” he said.

Bratzler said the hospital system is seeing more people come in for help with a COVID infection, but hospitalizations often come later after an infection has set in. He believes hospitals should prepare to see more sick people next week when the virus actually begins to work its course in the body.

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