Oklahoma Moves Toward ‘Endemic’ Approach to COVID-19

Beverly Cantrell - March 7, 2022 8:19 am

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two years after officials announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Oklahoma, state officials say they are shifting their response efforts to an “endemic” approach to the coronavirus.

Interim health commissioner Keith Reed said last week the department is preparing to begin a transition “into the endemic phase of this pandemic,” The Oklahoman reported. A disease reaches the endemic stage when the virus still exists in a community but becomes manageable as immunity builds.

Last month, California became the first state to formally shift to an “endemic” approach to the coronavirus.

But Reed said the shift to an endemic response doesn’t change the way the health department would respond if a new variant caused another surge.

This response would include maintaining the state’s personal protective equipment supply, keeping vaccine supplies on hand and working to support hospitals if their systems become strained again, Reed said.

“I don’t know that I can say yet that COVID is endemic,” Dr. Dale Bratzler, chief COVID officer for the University of Oklahoma, said last week. “But I do think we have to learn to live with COVID.”

The state saw a quick decline in COVID-19 cases after a surge following the omicron variant. Hospitalizations have also fallen.

A month ago, COVID-19 hospitalizations neared 2,000, and there were over 67,000 residents with active infections. As of Friday, there were about 3,100 active infections and 491 hospitalizations.

Since the state’s first COVID case was reported in Tulsa on March 6, 2020, more than 14,800 people in Oklahoma have died from COVID-19. More than 1 million cases have been confirmed in the state.

“We are in a much better position to coexist with COVID moving forward,” Reed said. “I think we’re in a position to take on this transition and do it successfully.”



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