Oklahoma hit a new daily high on Friday with 222 new cases of the coronavirus reported, bringing the total to 7,848, according to data released by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The second largest increase was on April 4 with 171 new cases.
Almost 32 percent of the new cases — 71 — came from Tulsa County, the county’s highest increase to date, the data show. Twenty-five percent were from Oklahoma County.
In Tulsa County, new cases of COVID-19 have spiked this week. In the last four days, the county reported 247 new cases for a total of 1,443.
The state’s number of new cases on Friday was about 121 cases above the state’s seven-day average, which de-emphasizes daily swings.
In a news release on Friday afternoon, the Tulsa Health Department said initial investigations indicated an outbreak linked to indoor gatherings, where large groups of people congregated in close contact for long periods of time. The investigation is ongoing to determine how many of the cases are related to the outbreak, the release said.
“I have concerns about large groups of people gathering indoors for prolonged lengths of time. It is imperative that anyone who chooses to host or attend a gathering take the steps to stay safe. If you are sick or think you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, stay home,” said Dr. Bruce Dart, the department’s executive director, in the release.
“The bottom line is that the more people an infected individual interacts with and the longer that interaction lasts, the greater the risk for spreading COVID-19 becomes.”
Though the release did not specify further on the “indoor gatherings,” Whirlpool Corporation on Friday confirmed the temporary closure of its Tulsa plant due to an outbreak of the disease. Health officials have not yet said how many cases are tied to the plant.
On June 1, events with no size limit were allowed to resume in Tulsa. President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a rally at the city’s BOK Center on June 19. The event’s registration page contains a disclaimer that “an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present.”
“By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury,” it says.
The health department advises people at gatherings to wear a cloth face covering in public and practice social distancing.
Meanwhile, hospitalization rates in the state have remained steady. On Thursday, the state health department reported that 153 patients had the disease or were under investigation for it. The highest number of hospitalizations was on April 7 with 481 patients.
The rate of positive tests in Oklahoma have also remained steady. As of Thursday, the rate was at 3.7 percent, according to reports from the state health department. The World Health Organization says states should be at 5 percent or below before they start to reopen.
Gov. Kevin Stitt in late April started a three-phase plan to reopen businesses and ease social distancing measures. Phase three of the plan started on June 1.