On Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, flanked by leaders of some of the largest hospital systems in the state, pleaded with the public to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
“If you've taken your foot off the gas, I'm asking you to tighten things up,” Stitt said. “Keep doing your part. We need it more than ever right now.”
“We are in trouble. Our local and state resources are approaching their limits,” said Dr. Julie Watson, the Chief Medical Officer at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. “Oklahomans help Oklahomans, and right now that means wearing a mask.”
Stitt echoed the call for widespread mask-wearing. He, however, continued to shoot down the idea of a statewide mandate for face coverings. Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye said Monday that such a mandate would actually dissuade people from wearing a mask.
As of Tuesday evening, 1,248 people with the virus were hospitalized, a new record for the state.
Watson said the surge of COVID-19 patients could force hospitals to delay or suspend non-emergency care. Some are already doing so.
“Our worst nightmare right now for every one of us physicians and health care workers, is having to choose between a patient in a car accident and a patient with COVID,” she said.
“We are really focused on asking Oklahomans to do their part by wearing their mask so that your medical professionals and your health systems aren't having to create space by extreme measures.”
State health officials and hospitals are using the Regional Medical Response System, a statewide system normally reserved for natural disasters, to coordinate patient transfers to maximize capacity.
Staffing each bed with doctors and nurses is a challenge, as well.
Dr. Cameron Mantor, Chief Medical Officer for OU Health Hospitals, said, “if our current rate of infection is not curbed. We will run out of beds and of staff.”
Frye said the state expects to receive its first shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine as early as next month.
Drugmaker Pfizer said this week its vaccine trials are finding success, but are still pending emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Assuming supplies will be limited at first, the Oklahoma State Department of Health has a distribution hierarchy for the vaccine starting with medical workers and nursing home residents. To read the state’s vaccination distribution plan, click here.