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OU Medicine infectious disease specialist advises on COVID-19 precautions as summer approaches in Oklahoma

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Coronavirus COVID-19

OU Medicine provided a live update June 5 for the state of COVID-19 globally and in Oklahoma — outlining a flattening of cases statewide and precautions to take during the summer. 

For several weeks, the amount of new cases in Oklahoma has been relatively flat — apart from larger outbreaks in a Guymon meatpacking plant and the Comanche County Detention Center, said Douglas Drevets, Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center’s chief of infectious disease, in the update. The identification of larger outbreaks could be attributed to increased testing. 

“We're testing about two to three times as many people as we were several weeks ago, so it's not unusual we're going to find new cases,” Drevets said in the update. “What is encouraging is our numbers of hospitalizations are not increasing — those continue to slowly go down.” 

The focus of the pandemic has shifted in the past few months as case numbers decrease in the U.S. and increase in countries like Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Peru and South Africa, Drevets said in the update. A global fluctuation in COVID-19 trends highlights a possible seasonality to the virus. 

“There could be some seasonality to this … (as) the southern hemisphere is now starting into their fall season which is their traditional influenza season,” Drevets said. “People, (however), are still susceptible to this virus … and although seasonality may slow its transmission … it seems COVID-19 will continue to run its course in places where it has not yet been.”

Although data indicate a decrease in new cases within Oklahoma, Drevets said people should continue taking caution as summer approaches. Drevets encourages participation in outdoor activities over indoor and the following health guidelines.

“You can travel safely this summer, (but) you have to be thoughtful about it and realize when you leave your car you will need to take precautions,” Drevets said in the update. “Respect others, protect yourself by wearing a mask when you're around other people and realize you have to wash your hands a lot.” 

If people choose to return to socializing and indoor establishments, Drevets said wisdom and common sense will be key. 

“I am still a little hesitant to go inside restaurants, but I know many proprietors have taken great care to socially distance people and do what they can to make indoor environments lower risk,” Drevets said in the update. “(But) I think if you can find an establishment where you can sit outside and away from other people, that's the best of all possible worlds.” 

Ultimately, precautionary measures like wearing a mask or practicing hand hygiene will be necessary until decent vaccination coverage is realized, Drevets said. He estimates this coverage will come in about a year. 

“I know the government has a half a dozen or more candidate vaccines they're trying to fund and put out,” Drevets said. “But again, these all have to be tested on people and assessed for … their ability to elicit an immune response. … It's not going to happen overnight, but we will get there eventually.” 

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