Okfuskee County virus risk upgraded to ‘moderate’
By Ken Childers
After spending several weeks in the low-risk category, Okfuskee County has been upgraded to the moderate-risk zone on the state health department’s COVID-19 Alert system map.
The risk map, introduced July 8, ranges from “new normal” (coded in green, meaning positive cases are at a manageable level) to “high risk” in red. As of Friday, there were no counties in the high risk category, and one only one county, Tillman, was coded green.
When the upgrade was issued on Friday, there were 27 active cases in the county, but by Tuesday that number had dropped to 20. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), there were two actives cases in Boley, two in Castle, nine in Okemah, five in Paden and two in Weleetka as of Tuesday.
The OSDH also reported on Tuesday that three people in Okfuskee County had died to date from COVID-19. Okemah, Paden and Weleetka have each reported one death, with the first death occurring around Aug. 7. Statewide, the number of deaths stood at 744 on Tuesday, the vast majority of which were in the 65+ age group.
Friday’s risk upgrade caused an area school to limit on-site instruction to 25 percent of its student population beginning this week. On Saturday, Bearden Public School announced that student groups would alternate between on-campus and distance learning until further notice. The school had previously adopted protocols based on the risk map. Although not in response to the risk alert upgrade, Mason Public Schools moved all students to distance learning this week after a student tested positive for COVID-19 (see related story).
OSDH, along with the department of education, announced a plan Friday that would allow public school teachers to be voluntarily tested for the coronavirus. The plan provides all teachers and school support staff free coronavirus testing in their areas, according to a news release.
“Testing plays a key role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in our schools,” interim Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said in the statement.
“This voluntary COVID-19 testing program is an important component of a layered approach to in-person instruction that will help mitigate risk of coronavirus exposure to everyone in the school community,” State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said.
Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order in July for the state health and education departments to develop a plan for teachers to be tested monthly for the virus.