How many Oklahomans are dying from COVID?

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 11/19/2020, 3:50 PM
Edited: 03/11/2021, 10:22 AM
(TULSA, Okla.) It seems like a simple enough question, but finding the answer to how many Oklahomans are dying from COVID-19 every day? Not so simple. If you’ve signed up for daily number reports from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, you might be comforted sometimes by the common phrase “No deaths were identified in the past 24 hours.” That’s good, right? Maybe no one died from COVID-19 in Oklahoma yesterday. Even if that number accompanies a staggering amount of new deaths that were identified, like on Wednesday when a record 26 deaths were identified. None of those had been identified in the last 24 hours. But the truth is, in regards to how many Oklahomans are dying per day, that information is not available publicly. Anywhere. VNN has searched and asked. We turned to OSDH’s Coronavirus Dashboard online. After studying the death toll for “Oklahoma Cumulative Cases by Date Reported”, we realized this was the same data that’s sent out every 24 hours, and does not indicate how many deaths are occurring every day. So, we looked instead to the death toll listed on the graph titled “Oklahoma Case Status by Date of Onset”. After going back and forth with Anthony Triana, media relations supervisor at Saxum, who OSDH contracts to handle COVID-19 related media inquiries, we were informed that the per day death numbers on the dashboard “Oklahoma Case Status by Date of Onset” does not show how many Oklahomans are dying per day from COVID, but of how many deaths have occurred after a victim began experiencing symptoms on that day. VNN was then directed back to charts on the state’s Weekly Epidemiology reports that track the number of COVID-19 deaths per day. But while the charts show points on a graph, it would be impossible to accurately report numerical data from this resource. We requested the raw data but have not heard back. For now, we turned back to identified deaths. When we crunched the numbers per month, we found an average of eight deaths were identified per day in September. That number increased to an average of 10 deaths identified per day in October. The latest White House Coronavirus Report, released on November 15, indicates that as we enter the colder months, those numbers are only expected to go up. “The spread in Oklahoma is exponential and unyielding, with hospitalizations increasing week over week and reported limited bed availability,” the report states. “Increases from the past two weeks correlate with Halloween and related activities. With Thanksgiving and upcoming holidays, Oklahomans must understand the COVID-19 situation statewide. Serious messaging and action are needed from state leadership; recommending Oklahomans wear masks in public settings communicates the current risk level and actions all Oklahomans need to take.” Oklahoma has been bumped up from 22nd in the nation for new cases per 100,000 last week to 21st place this week. It has also increased from having the 11th highest positivity rate in the country to 9th place. Not the top 10 kind of state Governor Stitt has been pushing for. The governor has enacted new actions this week, like having bars and restaurants close in-person service of food and alcohol by 11 p.m., and requiring executive branch state employees and visitors to state agency buildings to wear masks. Critics say it’s too little too late. 1,570 Oklahomans have lost their lives to COVID-19 since the outbreak. 95.99% of the victims have been 50 years old or older. All Oklahomans are being encouraged to prevent spreading the virus to the more vulnerable of the population. During the week of November 2 to November 8, 46% of nursing homes had at least one new staff member COVID-19 case. Many teachers throughout the state fall under the higher-risk age range, and have expressed worry about teaching in person. Officials said the risk of contracting COVID-19 is lower at school due to the precautions in place, but students are showing up every day after contracting the virus outside of the classroom.


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