Oklahoma VA: Third Of Claremore Facility Residents Have Contracted COVID-19

Thursday, August 20th 2020, 9:41 pm
By: Chinh Doan


New data from the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs shows about third of the residents at the Claremore VA have been infected with COVID-19.

Of those infected, 36 people have died of suspected complications from the virus.

The VA said employees who did not show symptoms and came to work likely led to the outbreak. Now, the state health department is loaning this center a rapid test machine to use on employees every day.

Oklahoma's largest veterans center is in Claremore. Since July 1, 129 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and of those, 36 have died and 11 have recovered. 61 employees have also tested positive and 33 of those have recovered.

Joel Kintsel, executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Veteran's Affairs, said the center is making changes to stop the spread.

"One bit of good news is that over last six days, we've only had one new positive resident so it does appear that this is slowing down," Kintsel said.

Kintsel said the federal VA helped move infected residents to the V-A hospitals in Oklahoma City and Muskogee.

Residents without symptoms and those with mild symptoms stayed at the Claremore Center in the recently-installed negative pressure area.

"I know this has been a tremendously difficult and challenging times for our veterans and for their family members and we appreciate their understanding, their patience as we work through this difficult time," Kintsel said.

The President of Oklahoma State Medical Association, Dr. George Monks said the outbreak is a prime example of the need for a statewide mask mandate.

"As a former soldier myself, I know the sacrifice these veterans have made for their country and for our freedom," Monks said. "As a state we have to work harder to guard not only the veterans but also the people taking care of them."

Data from the other six veterans centers in Oklahoma show no COVID-19 related deaths. The other centers combined have 8 positive tests from residents and 22 from employees.