The Oklahoma State Department of Health said more than half the population is fully vaccinated. Leaders in the medical field said that's a milestone in the fight against COVID-19.
Health experts told News On 6 eventually, like the common cold, COVID-19 case surges could be more seasonal; that is, they would increase during the winter and decrease during the summer.
Officials said an endemic would mean that COVID continues to exist, but at a level that doesn't pose an ongoing risk to our healthcare system. While we're moving in the right direction, they said we're not there yet.
Oklahomans are ready to have a conversation without saying that five-letter word, and while COVID is still a problem, the Tulsa Health Department said we can't forget how far we've come.
"It's just so incredible to see how much has changed and improved in our processes from having those mass vaccination sites where you can really only go one place and it was had getting an appointment, to pretty much any corner, any pharmacy you can just walk in and get a covid vaccine," said Madison Thomas, THD Epidemiologist.
Epidemiologist Madison Thomas still remembers December of 2020.
"It was stressful but a lot of fun and I'm so happy that I could've had that experience. I was actually able to be out there on the very first day, like December 15th of 2020. I was at the pod working that specific pod. So that was really cool to be a part of," said Thomas. "Seeing the first person come through and get their vaccine, I think all of us were extremely emotional. At the time it seemed like a huge turning point. Like we were gonna be able to get through this. It was a huge moment. One that I will never forget."
In January of 2021, Oklahoma experienced its largest surge in Covid cases and a peak in hospitalizations. The vaccine was only being given to those 65+, at mass vaccination sites and drive through clinics.
In March, folks were feeling hopeful, as the CDC had dropped its mask recommendation for those fully vaccinated.
By June, THD had reported its lowest weekly case number increase.
"We were feeling really good and unfortunately the delta variant was introduced," said Thomas.
In November of 2021, cases were down and 5-to-12-year olds got the green light to get the vaccine.
"It's really important. It really helps keep kids in school," said Thomas.
Thomas said the spread of COVID opens doors for new variants to develop that could be more transmissible, and more severe.
"When you're trying to prevent something like this it takes everyone," said Thomas. "If everyone comes together and we decide, 'Look, we really want to put this behind us. People who aren't vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, get that booster. Whenever you do go out, wear a mask. If you are sick, stay home. If you're exposed, stay home.' All of these things, this whole layered approach. If we were to just really unify and as a community do these things, I would help slow the spread of COVID in our area significantly."
Keith Reed with the Oklahoma State Department of Health said Omicron is more contagious than Delta with more breakthrough cases but milder symptoms.
He said an 'endemic' might be in sight if we play our cards right.
"Five million doses later, here we are. We have about 2.1 million Oklahomans that are fully vaccinated. The vast majority of our 65-plus population is fully vaccinated and a significant portion of them have gotten their booster shot," said Keith Reed, OSDH Interim Health Commissioner.