COVID-19 One Year Later: OU Health’s Chief COVID-19 Officer Reflects On Pandemic, Says There Were Preventable Deaths

Wednesday, March 3rd 2021, 7:15 pm
By: Erica Rankin


The pandemic has put a strain on Oklahoma’s health care system that local health officials said they have never seen before.

OU Health’s Chief COVID-19 officer, Dr. Dale Bratzler, said he knew COVID-19 was going to be a big deal after he saw the toll it took on Italy, which is not a third world country with a modernized health care system.

“I graduated from medical school 40 years ago and I have never seen anything like this in my entire career,” said Bratzler.

He said the pandemic brought on struggle after struggle starting with testing. There was trouble getting all of the necessary equipment to perform as many tests that were needed.

“We built our capacity to where we could do about 5,000 tests a week,” said Bratlzer. “But it took us awhile to get there.”

The biggest struggle though was space, especially with ICU beds.

“We had to take a number of the units in the hospital and convert them to COVID units,” said Bratzler.

But hospitalizations have continued to decline over the past month.

“We have seen a 2/3 decrease in the patients in our hospital right now,” said Bratzler.

Health officials have started to look back on the past year and note there are some things that could have been done better.

“One of the things we have noticed the most is that this was a public health emergency that turned into a very political crisis,” said Bratzler.

He said we knew the mitigation strategies that would help slow the spread, but it was like pulling teeth to get people to do them.

“The U.S. only has 4.2% of the world population but we had 25% of the world’s cases,” said Bratzler.

He also noted that if we would have taken the steps to slow the spread early on, we could have prevented some of the deaths from happening.

“I think we saw that there were a lot of preventable deaths in our country because we weren’t willing to take the steps to slow the spread of the virus,” said Bratzler.