Stephens County COVID-19 Cases “Jump” Over Weekend

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

Stephens County Commissioners again heard an update from County Emergency Manager Gary Curtis when they met at Territory Hall at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center on Monday.

During his update, Curtis alerted Commissioners that there would be an increase in the number of confirmed cases reported later that day. “We have jumped,” Curtis said.

“Right now with the State, we’re working on a three-phase program. The curve they’re going by is with medical facilities,” he said. “The problem is with the medical facilities. We have ten times the amount of ventilators that the United States [government] thought we should have. We have four times the amount of rooms…so that’s how they’re working on the curve.”

“The curve” is a measurement of confirmed COVID-19 cases in relation to available medical facilities including staff, beds, and equipment. In recent weeks the focus has been on “flattening the curve,” or reducing confirmed cases so that medical facilities’ capacity is not overwhelmed.

“We have a one-person flat rate for almost a week, so that’s what they’re going by. Today it changes,” Curtis said.

Curtis said at the time that the Oklahoma State Department of Health reporting site was down, possibly due to an issue with premature reporting, but that it would be fixed later Monday.

“What we’re looking at right now is more than we’ve had in a while, and it’s from other testing that’s been done,” he added. As of press time, there are currently 19 confirmed cases in Stephens County.

Curtis also said that antibodies from recovered patients and blood donations were being identified, in some cases from people who had apparently had the virus but didn’t show any symptoms.

“Apparently there’s a lot of people carrying this virus that have no symptoms at all, and the antibodies are the only way we’ll know where we’re at on the curve right now,” he said.

He advised the Commissioners that he believed the best course of action is to continue the orders that are currently in place, and that models indicate there could be a spike in confirmed cases right now and into this fall.

“I’ve had some questions about some folks…for how we’re going to open the Courthouse,” he said. “I think we’re doing the best we can with what we’re doing right now, and as far as opening the doors of the Courthouse, that would not be my suggestion until we get a little bit better handle on this. It’s still spreading.”

District 2 Commissioner Todd Churchman agreed. “In reality, we’re just one person away from being in the wrong spot at the wrong time and having a catastrophe.”

“We’ve been doing great as far as [Stephens] county goes,” Curtis said. “But we also realize that testing has become more prevalent and we’re going to start seeing some numbers – and I don’t want to scare anybody – but a lot of people have it, and it’s still out there.”

Curtis said that asymptomatic people who have the virus can still pass it to other people.

“As soon as you’re found positive they take you through a full scenario of anyone you’ve been around in the past two weeks, and then those people want to go get tested quick because they may be carrying it.”

He said that OU and OSU medical students were providing assistance with tracking people who have been in contact with anyone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Curtis also pointed out that the new Health Department reporting site is improved because it has expanded information regarding zip codes where cases exist. He said that the E-911 system operators had specific information regarding addresses of patients so that first responders would be notified of their status if they were called to an address.

“We do have plenty [of Personal Protective Equipment], Curtis said. “All of our responders should have all the PPE they need.”

The Commissioners will consider taking action to end or extend county office closures at next week’s regular meeting.