Omicron hits Oklahoma: State Officials urge vaccination

by Jordan Green

The omicron variant of the coronavirus was detected in Oklahoma a few days before Christmas, and health officials are encouraging people to practice safety precautions to keep it from spreading.

The new variant, which some health officials say is more contagious but has milder symptoms than previous variants, was first detected in the Sooner State on Dec. 21, the Oklahoma State Department of Health said.

“We have known for some time that COVID is not going anywhere,” said Keith Reed, the state’s interim commissioner of health. “The good news is, as new variants come on the scene, our resources in the state are plentiful.” Reed said vaccination is the “best way” to gain protection from the virus. He also encouraged people to get tested for the coronavirus if they feel sick and to wear masks in crowded public places.

State officials reported Dec. 20 that 2,098,362 Oklahomans, about 56.7% of the state’s eligible population, were fully vaccinated.

More than 530,000 Oklahomans have taken a booster dose. As of Dec. 27, Oklahoma has had 697,590 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, 13,619 of which are active, officials said. Statewide, 12,370 people have died from the virus.

Blackwell has had 1,081 cases, with 986 recoveries and 41 deaths. Braman has had 50 cases. Kaw City has had 118 cases, six of which are active. Newkirk has had 704 cases, with 676 recoveries and nine deaths.

Ponca City has had 5,978 cases, with 5,706 recoveries and 113 deaths. Tonkawa has had 594 cases, with 555 recoveries and 18 deaths. The state health department does not provide data on coronavirus cases in some of the state’s smallest towns, including Nardin in Kay County.

Vaccinations are available for free at some pharmacies and stores across the county, among other locations. For more information on vaccinations, or to schedule a vaccine appointment, visit vaccine-faqs.html.