Health Dept. COVID-19 Alert System Focuses On Hospitalizations For Risk Level

Thursday, July 30th 2020, 9:01 pm
By: Erick Payne

TULSA, Okla. -

We're taking a closer look at Oklahoma's new COVID-19 alert system.

An unpublished White House Task Force report privately recommended Oklahoma’s leaders take stronger measures to stop the spread of the virus.

Governor Stitt said they're following their own criteria that is a better way to keep outbreaks under control.

Fifteen counties in the state are considered to be at a "moderate" risk level under the state's alert system. The only thing keeping every single one of those 15 counties from switching to "high risk" is the fact so many hospital beds are available in the state.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says the counties in the orange, or "moderate" category, have more than 14 cases per 100,000 people.

The red, or "high" level is based on the same case numbers, but 1 of 4 other markers must also be met. Those 4 things are: less than 5% availability of ICU beds or medical surgery beds or ventilators, or less than 5 days of protective equipment on hand across the state.

"We have a transfer system in place if we needed to move patients around for excess capacity," Governor Stitt said.

Stitt said they're tracking how many people are hospitalized with COVID, which is the statistic other state leaders and Mayor Bynum say, is key.

"We reached an all-time high in the Tulsa area for hospitalizations a week ago today,” said Bynum.  “That's when you see stories about Dr. Monks talking about people having difficulties getting hospital rooms. That's really how close we got to pressing the limitations of our ICU capacity here in Tulsa.”

Since the alert system was created this month, no counties have ever been moved to "red alert" which is why Dr. George Monks, the president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said the "high risk" criteria should be decided by county, or region, not statewide.

"This color coding system might work for a small state like Rhode Island or DC, but for our state it's so geographically spread out, it's a challenge to move patients from one city to another, Tulsa to OKC or vice versa," Monks said.

The White House Task Force report said 55 of Oklahoma's 77 counties should either be in our orange or red zones. They recommend things like mask mandates, closing bars, expanding testing and reducing indoor dining for those zones.