State and local officials address Oklahoma City elevation to Tier 2 in Surge Plan

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahomans have already seen changes in hospitals thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but now that Oklahoma City has elevated to Tier 2 under the state’s new surge plan, those effects will be wider reaching.

The Oklahoma City metro, identified as Region 8 under the plan, moved up a tier less than a week after the surge plan was announced.

It means possible changes that will be specific to each hospital’s internal plan that could include moving lesser-care patients to rehabilitation centers in order to open up beds, expanding medical teams to include those who don’t usually conduct in-patient hospital care (like administrative nurses) and delaying elective surgeries.

“If you’re the patient, I think it’s very very important that Oklahomans understand that if your illness is mild, or you go to the hospital, or you’re recovering, you may get transferred. You could get transferred within the city or outside of the city,” said OU’s Chief Covid Officer, Dr. Dale Bratzler.

Although the state is in the red zone according to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the governor has said for months that he will not mandate mask-wearing.

“We continue to promote the CDC guidelines to the state of Oklahoma and to the governor, saying you should wear a mask, you should socially distance,” said Oklahoma State Department of Health Surge Plan Advisor Matt Stacy.

He said the state is trying to address the nursing shortage seen in Oklahoma by aiding schools in increased training, and working with the legislature on a way to allow nursing students back into rotation.

Stacy did not cite other specific aids to staff hospitals.

“The state of Oklahoma is not a staffing agency. The hospitals make these hiring decisions on their own. In the past, we have provided – through our various surge efforts in rooming and beds – we’ve provided $74 million directly to hospitals, and a lot of that should have been used for staffing reasons,” Stacy said.

In Oklahoma City, where a mask mandate is in place until at least December 7, Mayor David Holt said that while he has continuous discussions with Oklahoma City County Health Department officials on recommendations, there are no plans for more closures at this time.

“None of those usual suspects are driving those cases, it’s things that we really can’t control. It’s widespread and it’s happening really in situations like home gatherings, or meetings, or people getting together,” Holt said. “It’s not like it’s happening at grocery stores or it’s happening at bars. I mean, if that were the case, then I think we would certainly have a transparent conversation with the public about whether we need to tighten those things up.”

But Dr. Bratzler insists that statewide measures are needed to prevent an increase in deaths.

“If we’re going to slow the spread of the disease and not fill up our hospitals and get into trouble, one of the ways to do that is to have a coordinated response to push those practices that have been shown to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Bratzler said

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