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Oklahoma virus death toll climbs as positive tests decline

January 22, 2021 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma is seeing promising declines in the number of people testing positive and being hospitalized with the coronavirus, but the state’s death count continues to climb, state health officials said Friday.

Because it can take several weeks to confirm a death was caused by COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, many of the deaths reported this week are the result of a spike in cases that were reported after Thanksgiving and into the Christmas holidays, State Epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor said.

“Given that lag in reporting, I anticipate we will continue to see these higher death tolls for probably a week or longer,” Taylor said.

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The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 47 additional COVID-related deaths on Friday and nearly 3,000 new cases, bringing the statewide death toll to 3,187 and the total number of confirmed cases in the state to nearly 366,000.

The 7-day rolling average of daily deaths in Oklahoma has risen over the past two weeks from 26.14 deaths per day on Jan. 7 to 36.86 deaths per day on Jan. 21, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. During the same time period, both the state’s positivity rate and number of confirmed cases declined.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus in Oklahoma is currently 1,634, down from a record high of nearly 2,000 earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma ranks seventh in the nation in the percentage of its population that has received at least one dose of the vaccine, at 6.3%, compared to a national average of 4.9%, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 257,000 Oklahomans have received their first vaccine dose, and another 37,540 are fully vaccinated, said Deputy Health Commissioner Keith Reed. The state expects to receive another 89,000 vaccine doses next week and will continue to prioritize vaccinating Oklahomans age 65 and older, Reed said.

“This is a group that is at a much higher risk of bad outcomes from COVID,” Reed said. “We don’t want to create a scenario where they’re competing with other groups.”