After Criticism, Stitt Unveils a New COVID-19 Surge Plan
After he had been criticized by the chairman of a congressional select committee investigating whether Oklahoma reopened its economy too soon, Gov. Kevin Stitt rolled out a new plan to deal with the resurgence of the coronavirus.
U.S. Rep. James Clyburn (Dem., S.C.) wrote the governor last week and said Gov. Stitt had ignored White House Task Force dealing with the pandemic on how to open state economies.
Congressman Clyburn is chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on COVID-19.
In his letter, he asked for all correspondence between Oklahoma and the White House regarding the state’s reopening, as well as correspondence from the federal Center for Disease Control.
It could not be determined if the Stitt administration had complied with Congressman Clyburn’s requests.
Gov. stitt reopened the state’s businesses far ahead of what the CDC had recommended.
In any case, Oklahoma has continued to experience record resurgence of the virus, with a continuing increase in new cases of the virus and increased death rates due to COVID-19.
The governor contracted the virus after he attended a Trump rally in Tulsa.
Oklahoma has not experienced an overwhelming surge of COVID-19 patients statewide, but hot spots have sprung up in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas, Oklahoma Health Commissioner Lance Frye said Thursday.
Frye admitted to having some concern about the impact of reopening Oklahoma schools, but said, “I’m also understanding that children need to be back in school.”
Commissioner Frye said the stories he has seen so far indicate that children under 10 don’t spread the virus to the degree that adults do.
Gov. Stitt said, on March 30, when the COVID-19 crisis was becoming serious in Oklahoma, the state had 560 people in hospitals and officials were predicting as many as 5,000 might be hospitalized by mid-April.
The governor said Oklahoma hospitalizations never reached that high, but, instead, have been fluctuating between about 550 and 650 for the past month.
He credited a series of executive orders he issued, as well as actions by Oklahomans in following advice from medical experts for helping keep cases down.
Medical professionals have repeatedly advised people to social distance, wear masks when around other people in public spaces and to wash their hands frequently.
While Stitt has urged Oklahomans to follow that advice, he frequently has appeared in public without a mask and personally contracted the virus, but reported having few symptoms and has recovered.
During the news conference, the governor praised the work of Oklahoma health care workers, saying the average hospital stay for COVID-19 patients was 10 to 14 days in the beginning, but those stays have now been reduced to an average of 5 to 8 days through advances in medical treatments.
Since June 1, 99.3 percent of Oklahomans who tested positive for COVID-19 have survived and remain alive, Gov. Stitt said.
COVID-19 cases haven’t surged as much as projected in Oklahoma rural areas, but the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas have become hot spots, Commissioner Frye pointed out.
To cope with those hot spots, a revised surge plan has been established that officials described as a regional “distributed model of care.”
Under the revised surge plan, hospitals in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas will continue to provide care for coronavirus and non-COVID-19 patients until they reach 100 percent of their staffed capacity, said Lieut. Col. Matt Stacy, who is part of the governor’s COVID-19 response team.
Once capacity is reached, Oklahoma City and metro area hospitals have a plan in place that will allow them to care for an additional 340 COVID-19 patients.
Lieut. Col. Stacy said 215 of those surge beds will be available in the greater Oklahoma City metropolitan area.
Six hospital systems will be responsible for providing 120 of those beds, Lieut. Col. Stacy said.
He identified those as the Norman Regional Health System, the University of Oklahoma Medical Center, St. Anthony Hospital, Mercy Medical Center, Integris Baptist Medical Center and Alliance Health Midwest.
An additional 95 patients can be placed at Integris Baptist Portland Avenue medical center if that becomes necessary, he said.
In the Tulsa region, 125 surge beds will be available at the Oklahoma State University Medical Center, Lieut. Col. Stacy noted.
“The original modeling showed that they were expecting 30,000 Oklahomans to die,” Commissioner Frye said. “So far, to date, we’ve had 593 fatalities from COVID-19 in Oklahoma.”