Changes Coming To Oklahoma’s COVID-19 Alert System


Wednesday, August 26th 2020, 9:40 pm
By: Erick Payne


OKLAHOMA -

Oklahoma’s COVID-19 Alert System will see changes to how it determines county risk level.

The Alert System shows the risk level for each county based on four colors, and health experts said the current measurements are not helpful because they’re based on hospital data statewide.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health said rating the risk level by local hospital data instead will comply with the new surge plan. State health leaders said they applaud the decision.

The tool currently ranks counties among four risk levels: green, yellow, orange and red.

The marker for orange and red counties are both about 14 positive cases per 100,000 people.

However, for a county to move into the red, there needs to be less than 5% statewide availability of ICU beds, medical surgery beds, ventilators, or less than five days of protective equipment on hand across the state.

It means a local hospital system could struggle, but if there are enough PPE or beds somewhere else, the risk level stays at orange instead of red for that county.

Now, the Oklahoma State Department of Health said it will adjust the system on a more localized level to accurately reflect risk, and to work in tandem with the updated hospital surge plan.

“Utilizing regional hospital data will offer a clearer, more accurate picture of local hospital capacity, and increase the value of the alert system for all Oklahomans,” the Department of Health said.

The President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association said he applauds the OSDH efforts to fine tune the map that local leaders use to guide COVID-19 response.

"Current, accurate information is essential for our communities as well as those on the front lines on the disease response,” Dr. George Monks said. “If we hope to truly control this terrible pandemic, we must have the best resources available."

A spokesperson for the OSDH said they don't know when the changes will take effect.

Governor Kevin Stitt also said last month the state would release local hospital information. That hasn't happened yet.