In past waves, the earliest indicators of COVID-19 infections came in wastewater and the most recent results show another increase in the last few weeks. The amounts of virus in samples from both Tulsa and Oklahoma City had bottomed out in February, but now is trending upward again.
Health officials haven’t yet seen an increase of reported infections, but say with fewer people getting tests, and some of those tests taken at home and not reported in official state, the amount of infection remains unclear.
Regardless, said Epidemiologist Abhishek Shakya, with the Tulsa Health Department, it’s good to take precautions, and the precautions should be effective. “At this point, as long as the public is taking their measures, taking that layered approach, I'm not going to worry much about it,” he said.
He and other health officials still recommend the vaccine as the single most effective step of protection. 56-percent of Oklahomans have taken both doses. The CDC still recommends masks in certain settings.
“The other thing is obviously masks,” said Shakya, “though most places don't require them at this time, but I've been advocating for that for a while, but masks are necessary and obviously if you're going to be in a crowded place, or a large crowd, that is recommended.”
While another wave could be coming, hospitalizations are down. Tulsa’s largest hospital, Saint Francis, had 404 COVID patients in mid-January, and now has 42.
The state has not confirmed the newest sub-variant of Omicron, so there’s no indication yet whether that's behind the upward trend of COVID showing up in the state's wastewater.