Ray Carter | April 28, 2020

Oklahoma remains on course to reopen

Ray Carter

Gov. Kevin Stitt said Tuesday that COVID-19 trends in Oklahoma continue on a downward path and Oklahoma remains on course to reopen many businesses starting May 1. At the same time, the state continues to ramp up testing to better track the virus.

One of the most notable trends is that the number of people tested for COVID-19 has increased dramatically, but the number testing positive for the virus has not.

“Our rate of positive cases continues to decline,” Stitt said. “When we first started testing, more than 10 percent of everyone that we tested came back with a positive test. Now, for every time we test someone, it’s coming back at 6.1 percent are positive. So, in other words, for every 1,000 people that take a test, 61 are coming back positive. That means 939 are coming back negative.”

In the last week, the number of COVID-19 tests administered increased by 36 percent compared to the prior week, yet the total number of cases testing positive still declined. The number of tests administered increased from 13,050 in a week to 17,777, but the number of people testing positive declined from 676 to 656.

The number of Oklahoma patients hospitalized for COVID-19 peaked at 560 on March 30 and has since fallen to 288 currently, the governor said.

Stitt cautioned that citizens must continue social distancing in the days ahead even as businesses reopen and noted new cases of COVID-19 are expected to arise, although at a pace the state’s health care system can easily handle.

“We’re going to continue to still find cases in Oklahoma,” Stitt said.

Deputy Secretary of Science and Innovation Elizabeth Pollard said around 60,000 Oklahomans have been tested for COVID-19 so far, which places Oklahoma “right in the middle of the pack” among the 50 states for testing. Those testing numbers will increase with the provision of saliva testing beginning this week, Pollard said.

Deputy Secretary of Health and Mental Health Carter Kimble said officials will also test all 42,000 Oklahomans in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in the next 30 days. Many of those who have died in Oklahoma from COVID-19 are from that population, although Kimble stressed that fewer than 15 percent of nursing homes have been impacted by COVID-19 at this point.

Stitt said he feels comfortable with the decision to reopen Oklahoma based on the data.

“It’s easy to delay or say, ‘Hey, we should push this decision-making out,’” Stitt said. “But the facts are the facts.”

He noted the state has achieved all goals of the business shutdown, including flattening the curve of hospitalizations and increasing the supply of protective gear for medical officials and the supply of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.

“It was never to have zero cases in our state,” Stitt said. “That’s just not practical.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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