OK medical expert warns positive COVID-19 cases at highest level so far- and growing

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 06/15/2020, 9:33 AM
Edited: 03/11/2021, 10:22 AM
Data Graphs Courtesy: Dr. Dale Bratzler (TULSA, Okla.) Information released last week in the Oklahoma State’s Department of Health’s Weekly Epidemiology and Surveillance stated that “Oklahoma has begun experiencing over the past two weeks an increase in the number of cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19, though the number of deaths have remained approximately the same and the percentage of positives remains low at 3.7%.” https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov/sites/g/files/gmc786/f/2020.06.12_weekly_epi_report.v4.pdf But a local medical expert says that 3.7% percentage of positives is not accurate; it’s actually nearly twice as high. University of Oklahoma Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler took to social media over the weekend to tell the public the new peak Oklahoma is experiencing isn’t due to an increase of statewide testing. In fact, the uptick is due to more people testing positive for COVID-19 on a day-to-day basis. “The way the health department currently calculates it for their graphic is to divide the total number of positive tests since the start of the pandemic, by the total number of specimens tested since the start of the pandemic,” Bratzler said. “As of midnight June 11, there were 9,456 positive tests done on 252,624 total specimens tested - a positive rate of 3.7%.” But, Bratzler said, analysis needs to be done by crunching the numbers daily to paint a more accurate picture. He said he uses the data from OSDH’s daily reports to do just that. “From my first graph, you can see that we peaked on tests (just under 37,000) the week of May 17. At the low point (the week of May 25) only 1.8% of tested specimens were positive! Last week, however, we did just under 30,000 tests, but 4.6% of those specimens were positive,” Bratzler said. “My second graph shows the daily number of tests done and percent positive - essentially the same data and trends as the first graphic. However, you can see that on Thursday and Friday of last week, the percent of specimens that tested positive were 6.7% and 6.6% respectively.” Bratzler cited a recent study in Lancet that wearing masks reduces person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 by about 85% (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31142-9/fulltext) A majority of Oklahomans do not wear masks in public, despite businesses and organizations opening up with state guidance. “It's simple, is not a sign of weakness but a sign of courtesy, and could save lives,” Bratzler said. At the rate Oklahomans are testing positive, Bratzler also predicted a fairly sharp upswing in hospitalizations in the near future. Experts at OSDH said the increase in the number of cases is caused by both ongoing community transmission and outbreaks that affect specific populations, and they only expect that number to grow. “It is critical for Oklahomans to seek out testing, even for individuals without symptoms,” OSDH’s COVID-19 webpage https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov/ states. “The need to physically distance, wear a mask, wash hands often, and adhere to instructions to quarantine and isolate remain critically important.”


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