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Norman amid coronavirus: Cleveland County COVID-19 cases at 453, no additional deaths reported

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Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Cleveland County are now 453 with 4,424 statewide.

State cases increased to 4,424 from 4,330 Thursday, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Six additional deaths across the state were reported, but none in Cleveland County.

The Cleveland County death toll remains at 32, while the statewide death toll is 266, according to a press release from the OSDH. 

Two of the six deaths reported Friday occurred over the past 24 hours, and the other four between May 2-6, according to the release. 

Four of the six deaths occurred in the 65 and older age group: an Oklahoma County woman, a Cotton County man, a Le Flore County man and a Washington County man, according to the release. The other two deaths occurred in the 50-64 age group: a Caddo County man and a Rogers County woman.

According to Thursday’s executive order report, 113 individuals are hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 64 in the ICU. In Cleveland County, 355 individuals have recovered, meaning they were not hospitalized or dead 14 days after symptom onset. 

The OSDH has partnered with The Caring Foundation and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma to bring Caring Vans to under-served areas in Oklahoma City for COVID-19 testing, according to a press release. The testing is open to anyone, and individuals do not need to be showing symptoms of the coronavirus to be tested. 

OSDH Commissioner Gary Cox is encouraging all Oklahomans to be tested for COVID-19, and the state’s goal is to test 90,000 during May, according to the release.

The Caring Vans will be available May 8-9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at four locations in Oklahoma City: 1420 NE 23rd St., 1 SE 59th St., 1125 S. Walker Ave. and SW 29th St., according to the release.

“As the state enters the first phase of a measured reopening, testing becomes even more vital to health officials and Oklahomans who use data to make informed decisions to protect health,” Cox said in the release. “We want everyone to get tested, regardless of whether or not they are currently showing symptoms, so we can improve early detection of new clusters and hot spots as they arise and aggressively mitigate spread.”

Background on the state, city and university response to COVID-19

According to the OSDH, on April 28 Gov. Kevin Stitt called for all COVID-19 testing locations and providers to expand access to all Oklahomans who desire to be tested, even without demonstrating symptoms. 

Norman Mayor Breea Clark also released her three-phase Healthier at Home initiative to reopen Norman on April 28, which includes the reopening of dining areas of restaurants — by reservation only while following social distancing and sanitation guidelines — along with retail stores, which will be able to reopen with capacity limited to 35 percent on May 1. Norman’s three-phase plan is currently targeted to continue until August 1, the goal date for all restrictions to be lifted.

On April 24, interim OU President Joseph Harroz announced in an email that OU plans to return in-person operations this fall, though safety-oriented changes will be made to classes, housing and other operations. OU had moved classes online for the rest of the spring semester and summer session in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus and the campus was closed over spring break

On April 22, Stitt announced Oklahoma’s three-phase plan to reopen the state, with the first phase beginning on April 24 to reopen personal care businesses. The second portion of the phase began on May 1, which allows restaurant dining rooms, movie theaters, sporting venues, gyms and places of worship to operate with continued social distancing protocols.

Clark also announced on April 22 that the city’s current regulations will stay in place until April 30 despite Stitt’s decision.

The OSDH is partnering with OU and Oklahoma State University to offer additional testing sites in Tulsa, and information for the OSU site can be found here. Information about the OU-Tulsa site is available here. OU’s Goddard Health Center will offer drive-thru testing beginning Monday, April 20. 

A more complete list of drive-thru testing options can be found here.

On April 15, Stitt said in a press conference that the COVID-19 curve is flattening in Oklahoma and the state was working on preparations to reopen in the coming weeks with the advice of public health officials.

Stitt extended his “Safer-at-Home” order for vulnerable populations until May 6, but all other executive orders expired April 30, and the state is working on developing guidelines to safely reopen restaurants and nonessential businesses. The governor also moved up his original date for resuming elective surgeries to April 24, rather than April 30, as he said some hospitals have struggled with low demand. 

On April 2, Stitt declared a statewide health emergency pending legislature confirmation and held a press conference in which he discussed state government efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus, and his visit with a Norman company working to create an antibody test.

Stitt and Commissioner of Health Gary Cox encouraged health care providers and testing centers to loosen testing requirements and offer testing to any Oklahoman with COVID-19 symptoms. Cox released a public letter March 30 announcing that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, or those that have been in direct contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, can be tested starting that week. 

The university has announced that two OU community members have tested positive for COVID-19. Across the Norman area, many events have been postponed or canceled

On April 2, summer classes were moved online, and the university suspended in-person events through July 31. Virtual commencement was announced as well, with a date for rescheduled in-person graduation ceremonies in August.

On March 13, Clark declared a state of emergency for Norman. Bars and restaurants were required to close any seating areas for patrons on March 18, with the exception of takeout and delivery services. 

On March 22, Clark increased coronavirus-related regulations, limiting gatherings to 10 people and closing additional businesses.

The OSDH urges Oklahomans to follow Gov. Kevin Stitt’s “Safer-at-Home” executive order which encourages those who are immunocompromised and over the age of 65 to stay home until May 6, according to the release. The order also calls for non-essential businesses in counties with confirmed COVID-19 cases to temporarily close until April 30.

OSDH also encourages all Oklahomans to stay home, wash hands frequently, avoid touching the face, reduce social contact and to isolate for 14 days if sick. If an individual begins experiencing COVID-19 symptoms — including fever, cough or shortness of breath — contact a medical professional or call the COVID-19 call center at 877-215-8336 or 211 for assistance.

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