Oklahoma reports a new daily record of confirmed COVID cases

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma hit a new daily record high of confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday, with 858 reported in the last 24 hours, health officials said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health also reported five additional deaths from COVID-19, bringing the statewide death toll to 404.

Oklahoma has been experiencing a surge in hospitalizations due to the coronavirus, with 426 people currently hospitalized because of the disease, an increase of more than 100 from the same time last week, according to health department figures.

Of particular concern is the rapidly dwindling availability of intensive-care unit beds, particularly in the central Oklahoma area, which has fallen to 8%, said Oklahoma State Medical Association President Dr. George Monks.

“What we’re seeing is an overall tightening of capacity. It’s quickly shrinking and that’s very worrisome,” Monks said. “The doctors and nurses need Oklahomans to start wearing masks because we’re starting to see significant stress on our medical system.”

Integris Baptist Medical Center announced Tuesday it was opening its Portland campus in northwest Oklahoma City because it was experiencing constraints on capacity.

The latest data brings the total number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in Oklahoma to 17,220, although the actual number of positive cases is likely much higher since many people haven’t been tested and some who get the disease don’t show symptoms.

Meanwhile, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York announced on Tuesday those states will require visitors from Oklahoma to quarantine for 14 days because of the surge in the state.

The previous daily record high in confirmed COVID-19 cases for Oklahoma was 585, which was reported last week. Gov. Kevin Stitt said at the time that the state was a “long ways away” from reintroducing restrictions that might harm the economy.

The Oklahoma State Medical Association last week called for state leaders to require employees and customers of businesses to wear masks around others, but Stitt has so far resisted a mandate. The governor rarely wears a mask in public, even when he’s in close proximity with groups of people.

Stitt spokeswoman Baylee Lakey said Tuesday the governor is working closely with the health department, which is developing a color-coded map to provide additional public health guidance for Oklahoma communities.

“The governor remains fully focused on the health and safety of Oklahomans while also supporting businesses that are going above and beyond to protect their customers and neighbors as they safely reopen,” Lakey said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.