By Paul Monies
Outbreaks of coronavirus at two state prisons and community outbreaks in Guthrie, Lawton and Yukon led the weekly hotspots in Oklahoma.
Infections of inmates at Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy and North Fork Correctional Center in Sayre put those two facilities on the Department of Corrections’ latest hotspot list for prisons. More than 250 inmates at Dick Conner and more than 150 inmates at North Fork had active coronavirus cases on Friday, the department said in its testing update.
DOC on Wednesday suspended visitation at all state prisons in an effort to quell infections throughout its system. More than 580 inmates had active infections as of Friday, while more than 3,700 inmates have tested positive since the pandemic started.
Meanwhile, ZIP codes in Guthrie, Lawton and Yukon were among other places this week with large increases in active coronavirus cases, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of state data. Declines came in places that had large outbreaks of now-recovered inmates in prison, like Fort Supply and McAlester.
The state’s death toll from the virus surpassed 1,000 last weekend and stood at 1,044 on Friday, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
More than 89,500 Oklahomans have been infected with coronavirus since March, with September recording the highest number of monthly cases at 28,466. That’s up from about 22,200 cases in August. Health officials have pointed to the Labor Day holiday and students returning to schools and colleges as some of the factors behind the increase in cases.
Public health officials continue to advise residents to wear a mask, wash their hands and watch their distance from others, especially in indoor settings. Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday said the state had received an initial shipment of rapid, point-of-care antigen tests for coronavirus. About 77,000 of Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNOW tests will go first to K-12 schools, high-risk health care workers and vulnerable populations.
“Distributing rapid point-of-care tests across our state will be incredibly valuable to keep our schools open for in-person instruction while protecting Oklahomans from this virus,” Stitt said in a news release. “These tests will also help us keep our frontline healthcare workers and their families safe as they continue their important mission of caring for the sick and our most vulnerable.”
Paul Monies has been a reporter with Oklahoma Watch since 2017 and covers state agencies and public health. Contact him at (571) 319-3289 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow him on Twitter @pmonies.