Oklahoma has remained in the “red zone” for new coronavirus cases for more than a month and should implement a statewide mask mandate, the newest weekly report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force says.
Following criticism from some local officials, Gov. Kevin Stitt last week agreed he would start making the weekly reports publicly available. He delivered on that promise earlier this week, as the Oklahoma State Department of Health released eight reports.
The reports, first released by Public Integrity, a nonprofit journalism outlet, date back to late June and contain Oklahoma-specific recommendations on slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
The state released the latest report, dated Aug. 23, on Wednesday. Here are four takeaways.
- Oklahoma is almost in the “red zone” for its test positivity rate, landing it among the top 10 highest in the nation
Oklahoma’s overall cumulative test positivity rate — the percentage of positive cases to tests conducted — was at 7.4 percent as of Tuesday, according to state health data. But the latest week of data, analyzed by the task force, showed the state at a 9.9 percent positivity rate.
The national average was at 5.8 percent, the report said.
Though currently in the “yellow zone,” the state is nearing the “red zone” for its positivity rate, which is now the eighth highest in the nation, according to the report. A rate of more than 10 percent would land the state in the “red zone.”
In its July 26 report, the state was above a 10 percent positivity rate, but fell into the “yellow zone” the following week.
More than 847,000 tests had been completed in the state as of Tuesday, state health data shows.
- Oklahoma is above the national average for new coronavirus cases
Oklahoma is in the “red zone” for new cases with the 12th highest rate in the nation, meaning the state reported more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people, according to the report.
The state reported 123 new cases per 100,000 population over a recent one-week period, compared to a national average of 93 per 100,000 population.
In a recent three-week period, Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland counties reported the most new cases, representing more than half of new daily case counts.
As of Wednesday, the state’s seven-day moving average was at about 702 new cases per day.
From Aug. 16 to Aug. 23, Oklahoma reported 5,367 new cases.
- The Tulsa metro area is in the “red zone,” but the Oklahoma City metro isn’t
The White House report has placed the Tulsa metro area in the “red zone” for its rate of new cases since July 14, meaning it’s recorded more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population and a test positivity rate over 10 percent.
The Oklahoma City metro, though also placed in the “red zone” in July, fell into the “yellow zone” later that month, having had less than 100 new cases per 100,000 population and a test positivity rate under 10 percent, reports show.
As of the latest report, there were seven metro areas and 20 counties in the “red zone.” Meanwhile, there were five metro areas and 16 counties listed in the “red zone” in the July 26 report.
- Oklahoma needs to enact more stringent measures
Beginning in August, the White House recommendations started to urge Oklahoma to implement a statewide mask mandate.
“With the continued geographic expansion of COVID-19 spread, a mask mandate needs to be implemented statewide (in counties with greater than 20 cases) to decrease community transmission,” the latest report states.
As of Wednesday, nearly 50 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties were reported to have more than 20 active cases, according to state health data.
Though more than a dozen city governments have implemented mask mandates, Gov. Stitt has refused to issue one statewide.
Instead, Interim Health Commissioner Lance Frye issued a public health advisory on Aug. 13 that in part recommended face coverings for those over 11 years old in counties with an elevated rate of new cases.
The task force also recommended bars close and indoor dining be restricted in counties in the yellow and red zones, as well as metro areas.