OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma City firefighter, whose nephew became the first department employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, died of the virus after being infected while responding to a call, the fire chief said.
Fire Chief Richard Kelley, fighting back tears, said Monday that Maj. Andy Davis died Christmas Eve, declining to elaborate on details of when or how Davis was infected.
Deputy Chief Mike Walker said Davis' nephew, firefighter A.J. Davis, was the first fire department employee to receive the vaccine on Saturday.
“We just thought it was the fitting thing to do in light of the passing of Andy,” Walker said. “So, we reached out to him and he was willing to step up and be the first one.”
A second fire department employee, Robert Saudia, 45, died Monday after suffering from COVID-19, but the cause of death has not been determined, department spokesperson Louis Marschik said Tuesday.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Tuesday reported 1,194 additional coronavirus cases and 22 more deaths, which total 283,781 cases and 2,405 deaths due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March.
The health department reported a record 2,000 people hospitalized with the virus, leaving 5% of adult ICU beds available.
Dr. Dale Bratzler at the University of Oklahoma medical center said he believes the actual number of infections is higher because the number of people tested has declined.
During early December there were 40,000 to 60,000 people tested during three-day periods encompassing weekends, according to the health department. On Monday, that number included five days for a total of about 27,000 people tested, with 21% testing positive, Bratzler said.
“I believe the current (positive) numbers are falsely low at this point because of a lack of testing,” Bratzler said. “In 10 days to 14 days we're going to see a substantial surge in the number of cases in Oklahoma ... 10 to 12% of those people are going to end up in the hospital, so I think we're going to be really challenged in the next few weeks."
Bratzler said he believes the drop in testing was due to laboratories closing for the Christmas holiday and people being tested only if they experienced symptoms of the virus.