The state health department has confirmed or is investigating suspected cases of the novel coronavirus in eight care facilities in Oklahoma.
However, the department declined to provide where those facilities are located, even declining to specify which counties the facilities are in, citing privacy laws. The department also declined to tell The Frontier how many facilities in the state have confirmed cases.
Asked how many of the eight care facilities were confirmed to have residents or workers infected with COVID-19, or what the outcomes were of the completed investigations, an Oklahoma State Department of Health spokeswoman declined to respond citing privacy reasons.
There have been at least 10 confirmed cases of the virus in at least two Oklahoma care facilities, officials have said.
Across the state, there are hundreds of nursing homes, assisted living centers and other facilities, and medical professionals say the virus is much more dangerous for seniors and those with underlying medical conditions.
In a long-term care and nursing facility in Washington, at least 25 people associated with the facility died after being infected with COVID-19 and others were hospitalized.
In Oklahoma, two residents at Grace Skilled Nursing and Therapy in Norman died from COVID-19 in the last week. Both patients tested positive for the virus and were hospitalized at the time, according to a news release.
The facility, which has 136 beds, announced in a press release on Thursday afternoon that an additional seven residents had tested positive for the virus, bringing the total of infected residents to nine.
The residents had been showing symptoms and were under isolation, according to the release. Any residents who exhibit severe symptoms will be sent to the hospital.
“Our goal remains the same — to prevent exposure or spread of the virus while continuing to care for the needs of all our residents,” said Theresa Green, a spokeswoman for the home, in an emailed statement.
“Heightened precautions remain in place to help protect residents and team members as we continue to receive guidance from and to work closely with the CDC and state and local health officials on next steps.”
A resident of Ponca City Nursing and Rehabilitation tested positive for COVID-19 on March 17. The woman was hospitalized and expected to be discharged to her family, said Steven Buck, President of Care Providers Oklahoma, at a press conference earlier this month. The patient was the first known positive case in a nursing home, he said.
“This truly does represent a tremendous challenge for our state and communities,” Buck said at the press conference. “One thing I want to underscore is the providers that we represent are well-prepared for infection control strategy.”
In Kay County, where Ponca City is located, there were 11 known cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
Over the last month, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have continued to climb in Oklahoma. There were 248 confirmed cases of the virus on Thursday morning. Eight-six people were hospitalized and seven had died.
Of the seven who died, four were over the age of 60, according to the state health department.
Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday ordered a “safer at home” policy, requiring vulnerable populations in Oklahoma, such as those over the age of 65, to stay home except for essential errands like grocery or pharmacy trips.
Under the order, visits to nursing homes and long-term care facilities are suspended until further notice.
In a press release on Thursday afternoon, Buck said facilities caring for the elderly need “aggressive” COVID-19 testing in order to contain the outbreaks of the virus.
“In addition, health care providers statewide need to have access to an adequate supply of personal protective equipment,” Buck said. “This is absolutely critical if we are going to protect those providing care to the elderly and other vulnerable populations.”
Asked what the process was for testing residents and workers in care facilities where cases of the virus were confirmed, the health department did not respond by publishing time.
State officials have said testing for the virus has been prioritized for high-risk groups and those already hospitalized. On Thursday afternoon, the governor announced the state had received 10,000 additional testing kits from the federal government.
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