White house issues new COVID-19 recommendations

Oklahoma broke new records in COVID-19 case numbers over the weekend just days after the White House Coronavirus Task Force issued its latest report listing Oklahoma in the red zone for both cases and test positivity at this time. 

On Saturday, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 4,741 new cases in Oklahoma. This number included some backlogged and duplicate cases and was amended to 4,507 on Sunday with no new numbers released. 

Oklahoma currently ranks 24 in case rate and 11 in positivity rate for COVID-19 in the U.S. Oklahoma is reporting more than 101 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the state’s population with more than 10.1% of tests returning a positive result. 

Additionally, Oklahoma City, or Region 8 of the states eight hospital regions for its COVID-19 Hospital Surge Plan, released Oct. 27, has been in tier 3 status since Nov. 2. Tier 3 means 20-40% of occupied beds in hospitals are COVID-19 patients. Tier 3 is the second-highest of the state’s four tiers. 

Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland counties have the highest case numbers, but 86% of all counties in Oklahoma have moderate or high levels of community transmission, putting them in the yellow, orange, or red zones. Additionally, 69% of Oklahoma counties have high levels of community transmission, putting them in the red zone, according to the report. 

The White House also included many recommendations for the state and its residents to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In these guidelines, the White House task force explains that “incomplete mitigation leads to prolonged community spread, hospitalizations and increased fatalities.” 

The report also calls upon the state to focus it’s testing to find sources of asymptomatic transmission and attempt to reduce transmission numbers overall. 

Further, the report states, “There must be clear messaging to Oklahomans to act now.” This includes avoiding behaviors such as gathering without a mask with anyone outside your household, going in public without a mask, and having gatherings beyond your immediate household until cases and test positivity decrease significantly.

At this time there has been no move by Gov. Kevin Stitt to enact statewide actions in line with the recommendations. Stitt did issue a statement Saturday in response to the state’s record-breaking number of new positive cases. 

Some other key community recommendations from the White House report include, but are not limited to:

  • Limiting restaurant indoor capacity to less than 50% and restricting hours until cases and test positivity decrease.
  • Working to create and communicate PSAs on taking smart actions to stay open, including targeted messages to rural communities.
  • Ensuring all hospitals, including rural hospitals, have access to antivirals, antibodies, and ventilators.
  • Requiring masks be worn by students and teachers in K-12 schools, in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • Working with universities to implement weekly testing protocols for all students (on and off campus).

In response to the White House recommendations, Adrienne Nobles, vice president for communications and public affairs said: “We are currently reviewing the new recommendations and plan to convene the On-Call COVID-19 Task Force to discuss options. In regards to mandatory weekly testing for UCO, funding and logistics are a primary concern.”

The White House Coronavirus Task Force issues weekly reports and recommendations. The Vista will continue to follow these reports and the state and university response as they develop.

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