COVID-19 cases continue to reach record highs in Oklahoma and Rogers County. As those case counts rise, so does concern about available hospital space.

On Tuesday, the state set another record for hospitalizations, with 1,381. It's a 25% increase from seven days earlier, when there were 1,102. The rise in cases has impacted Hillcrest Hospital Claremore, both in regular beds and in the intensive care unit.

The hospital has been averaging 1-3 ICU patients per day in the last several weeks due to COVID-19, said Hillcrest Claremore CEO David Chaussard. It has six ICU beds available.

"This has had an impact on ICU capacity," said Chaussard, who responded to several questions from the Progress in an email about the pandemic's effects. "More importantly, we are seeing too many patients wait to come into the hospital and then need the ICU when they arrive. That is one of the reasons the ICU capacity is so tight in addition to the COVID patients.

"Many health concerns can’t and shouldn’t wait. We encourage patients to seek care for all conditions. We are operating under heightened safety guidelines and have enhanced our processes to protect our patients and team members."

Chaussard said Hillcrest Claremore had 12 patients with COVID-19 during the week of Nov. 9. As of Nov. 16, there were seven.

"… Bed availability and capacity is constantly changing and fluid," he said. "Patients are transferred to Tulsa if we are out of the beds for the type of specialty required for admission or if the patient requires a higher level of care."

Across the Hillcrest system, ICU capacity averages between 90%-95%, which includes both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 cases, he said.

Several factors determine if someone is admitted as an inpatient to the hospital, whether for COVID-19 or another illness. Those factors range from the severity of an illness, the nature of the disease being treated and individual health conditions that could be a contributing factor to a patient's illness, Chaussard said.

"This approach is the same for patients who present to us and are diagnosed with or suspected of COVID-19," he said. "Respiratory compromise and the need or requirement of supplemental oxygen can lead to admission. However, there can be many other considerations or criteria in the decision-making process."

The number of active COVID-19 cases has soared in Rogers County in the last two weeks, according to Oklahoma State Department of Health data. In its most recent data, the state reported 609 active cases in the county, which compares to 86 on Nov. 1.

Since the start of the pandemic, Rogers County has reported 3,317 cases, and 17% of those have come in the last two weeks, according to state data. There have been 57 deaths reported.

"This is the time to embrace the science and wear a mask, practice safe distancing, wash hands often and disinfect surfaces," Chaussard said.

Information from the federal government's Indian Health Service about the impact of COVID-19 on Claremore Indian Hospital was not available at press time.

On Monday, Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an order that requires restaurants to ensure tables are at least six feet apart and that bars and restaurants close by 11 p.m., with the exception of drive through windows or delivery services including curbside. Restaurants aren't required to follow the six-feet spacing mandate if they have sanitized dividers between people seated closer than six feet. The mandate takes effect Thursday.

The governor also required state employees under the executive branch to wear masks in common areas or when they're around other people. Visitors to state agency buildings must wear masks. The state House and Senate also required that masks be worn in the State Capitol building. Those mandates started Tuesday.

The city of Claremore has not required masks but has encouraged citizens to wear them.

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