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Oklahomans are waking up to a startling reminder that COVID-19 is re-surging rapidly across the state. According to an online statement from Owasso Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, hospitals statewide are close to running out of pediatric beds.
“We have been notified that there are no available pediatric hospital beds in the state,” the organization said in a Facebook post Wednesday evening. “We have been told that children needing hospitalization are being transferred to Texas.”
Owasso Pediatrics provided an update later in the day to indicate a few beds still remained. Still, availability throughout Oklahoma is shrinking with the spread of the Delta variant.
As the variant continues to increase infections in children across the country, the Centers for Disease Control is updating its guidance. The CDC now recommends that all students in K-12 education settings wear masks when school returns to session this fall.
According to NBC News, as of July the virus has infected more than 4 million American children and hospitalized nearly 17,000.
State health leaders demand action
News of Oklahoma’s startling uptick in pediatric hospitalizations spread quickly on social media Wednesday.
Norman Mayor Brea Clark urged residents on Facebook to “wear a mask or get vaccinated”.
“COVID-19 is not only still here, but our numbers are increasing daily,” Mayor Clark wrote. “Data doesn’t lie.”
“Oklahoma is seventh in the nation for number of new cases per 100,000 people. I am now wearing my mask indoors again, and I encourage you to do the same.”
Dr. George Monks, President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, took to Twitter to call on the Governor to act.
“Some of our sick Oklahoma children have been sent to out of state hospitals because we have no capacity,” Dr. Monks wrote. “We need a state of emergency declared so we can extend [hospital] capacity.”
Governor Stitt has so far refused to issue another state of emergency.
An official declaration from Stitt’s office is necessary for hospitals to significantly expand COVID patient capacity. Similarly, schools cannot adhere to CDC guidelines and implement mask mandates without a state of emergency.
Vaccines remain the best hope of stopping the virus
As cases surge across the state of Oklahoma, CDC guidelines now also advise all people living in COVID hot-spots to wear masks in public.
One of the most effective ways to end the spread of the virus is for all eligible people to receive the vaccine. Oklahoma also remains one of the least vaccinated states in the nation. Local, state and national health experts are urging un-vaccinated individuals to get their shot as soon as possible.
“You can take a vaccine to prevent possible COVID hospitalization,” Owasso Pediatrics wrote. “We are just asking everyone to do what they can to help a strained hospital situation.”
Oklahomans can find and schedule their vaccination at www.vaccines.gov/search.