OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City's metro area is witnessing an alarming spike in COVID-19 infections among young people that is being driven largely by “super spreader" indoor events like church activities, fitness classes, weddings, funerals and at bars, city officials said Tuesday.
Mayor David Holt held his first press conference in weeks to discuss the dramatic increase in the number of new cases, especially among people in the 18 to 49 age group, and a spike in hospitalizations.
While evidence suggests young people are less susceptible to serious illness and death, Holt said he fears younger people could help facilitate a renewed outbreak of the disease.
“People between the ages 18 and 50 don’t live in some sort of a bubble," Holt said. “They are the children and grandchildren of vulnerable people. They may be standing next to you at a wedding. They might be serving you a meal in a restaurant.
“And people between the ages of 18 and 50 are more likely than ever before to be carrying the virus in Oklahoma City and giving it to vulnerable people."
The number of people hospitalized in the Oklahoma City area for COVID-19 jumped from 43 last week to 79 on Monday, while the number of people in intensive care units increased by about 50% over the same period, Holt said.
“If hospitalizations continue to rise at the rates seen in the last few days or if deaths return to the rates seen previously, we will have little choice but to roll back to earlier phases of our reopening," Holt said.
Oklahoma City-County Health Department Director Dr. Patrick McGough says the spike is being driven mostly by “super spreader” indoor events.
“These activities and events in the age of COVID-19 are showing up week after week as super spreader events where many people at the same event are exposed to the virus," McGough said.
Statewide, health officials also reported an alarming jump in the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19, from 197 on Monday to 265 on Tuesday. State officials also reported 295 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths since Monday. That brings the total number of people infected statewide to more than 11,000 and the death toll to 371.
The actual number of people who have contracted the virus is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.