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Oklahoma’s COVID-19 case numbers are skyrocketing as the “Delta variant” rapidly spreads across the state. In just the past two weeks, case numbers have more than tripled, according to the State Department of Health. Now, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) at the University of Washington has issued a dire warning about what may lie ahead for Oklahomans.

According to the group’s COVID-19 projection model, the virus may claim the lives of as many as 2,000 more by November 1st.

Rise in cases driven by unvaccinated residents

The projection comes as Oklahoma reports nearly 2800 new cases of the virus in just the last 48 hours.  According to Mayor GT Bynum, one in every ten hospitalizations in Tulsa were COVID-19 patients as of Monday.  This represented a more than 1000% increase from just last month when that number was one in every one hundred.

Oklahoma’s latest surge is driven, in large part, by shockingly low rates of vaccination.  With just over 39% of residents fully vaccinated, the state ranks in the bottom ten nationwide.

As cases surge, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt is reluctant to issue another state of emergency.  The governor recently signed legislation prohibiting schools from requiring masks to protect the health of students.  Meanwhile, the state continues to report increasing rates of hospitalizations for young children infected with the virus.

Leaders across the state and nationwide continue to urge members of the public who have not yet received the vaccine to do so immediately. Some Republican-led states with lagging vaccination rates are working to encourage their residents to get the shot through innovative programs. Just today, Missouri joined West Virginia and Ohio in announcing cash prizes for vaccinated residents.

As restrictions across the state remain lax, IMHE predicts daily infection rates could increase to 6,000 by September if vaccination rates don’t increase.

Nate Morris moved to the Tulsa area in 2012 and has committed himself to helping build a more equitable and just future for everyone who calls the city home. As a teacher, advocate, community organizer...

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