After Pediatric Death, State Officials Urge Precautions; Alert System Launched Last Week

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced on Sunday that the first COVID-19 related death of a minor had occurred in Comanche County, prompting strong reactions from health officials and State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of the state’s first child impacted by COVID-19 since the pandemic arrived in Oklahoma,” said Interim Health Commissioner Lance Frye, MD. “Our prayers are with the family and community as they mourn the loss of a young, innocent life. As the pandemic continues to tragically impact families in our state, we can remain vigilant to prevent the spread by actively protecting each other.”

Hofmeister echoed Frye’s sentiments on the tragedy and emphasized the importance of precautions, particularly when schools reopen in the fall.

“Students need to learn,” she said. “We want schools to reopen this fall, but for that to happen, it is critical that Oklahomans take decisive actions now to mitigate spread of the virus. Wearing a mask around other people is a small sacrifice for the sake of literally saving lives.”

The announcement of the child’s death came just after OSDH launched a COVID-19 alert system late last week. The alert system is a four-tiered risk measurement and communication tool that identifies areas of higher risk for COVID-19 infection by color.

Each color category is based on daily new cases reported per 100,000 in population.

• Green: fewer than 1.43 new daily cases per 100,000

• Yellow: 1.43 – 14.39 new daily cases;

• Orange: greater than 14.39 new cases per 100,000;

• Red: greater than 14.39 new cases plus one of four thresholds reached.
Those four thresholds are the statewide ICU beds available, the percent of medical surgery beds available, percent of ventilators available, and the average days of personal protective equipment on hand and available.

OSDH said that the county map will be updated every Friday as part of the regular 11am media advisory, and that the data will be based on a 7-day rolling average.

“It is critical for Oklahomans to partner with us in following the latest public health guidance to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable populations. Wash your hands often, limit social engagements, and consider wearing a mask where physical distancing is challenging,” Frye said.

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