State health officials on Friday reported 222 new cases of COVID-19, marking a new peak in daily increases for both the state and Tulsa County.

The triple-digit spike brought the total confirmed number of infections to 7,848 since early March. The daily report from the Oklahoma State Department of Health provided no information that might explain the increase.

The last peak of new daily cases for the state was April 4, when 171 new cases were reported.

Health officials reported that 71 of the new confirmed cases occurred in Tulsa County, topping the previous high single-day total of 65.

Tulsa Health Department investigations indicate that the latest outbreak is linked to indoor gatherings where large groups of people congregate for prolonged periods. However, the investigation continues.

The latest peak occurred as Whirlpool Corp. officials revealed additional cases at their Tulsa plant; as protesters sustain demonstrations against police brutality; and as people’s behavior changes during Phase 3 of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan to remove COVID-19-related restrictions.

Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart, in a prepared statement, expressed concerns about large, prolonged indoor gatherings.

“It is imperative that anyone who chooses to host or attend a gathering take the steps to stay safe. If you are sick or think you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, stay home,” said Dart. “The bottom line is that the more people an infected individual interacts with and the longer that interaction lasts, the greater the risk for spreading COVID-19 becomes.”

When asked about the rise in cases, the governor’s office issued a written statement saying Oklahoma has “quadrupled our state’s testing capacity over the last month and as a result have seen an all-time low in our percentage of positive cases at 3.7%.

“We are closely monitoring and deploying resources to communities with recent increases in COVID-19 cases, and Governor Stitt strongly encourages Oklahomans to take precautions to protect themselves and follow the guidance of contact tracers or health officials to quarantine or isolate if they are exposed.

“With more than 80 free testing locations and a robust hospital surge plan still in place, Oklahoma is in a strong position to confront this virus until there is a vaccine.”

Concerns remain for greater transmission of the deadly disease in light of President Donald Trump’s plan to rally support for his 2020 election campaign, which is slated for June 19 in Tulsa at the BOK Center.

Tulsa County’s four-day average number of new cases has doubled from its previous peak in April. The four-day average for new cases reported Friday was 62. The peak before this week was 31 on April 3-4.

Two weeks ago, the county’s four-day average number of new cases was 14.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said the increase in cases was expected as the state continued to reopen.

“As restrictions have been lifted through a phased approach in our state, more and more people are going back to work and returning to some modified sense of normalcy in the midst of this pandemic,” Bynum said in a prepared statement.

“The key to maintaining safety is the capacity of our local health care system. I continue to maintain close communication with the leadership of our hospital systems in Tulsa,” he said. “While we monitor that capacity, none of us should lose sight of this: COVID-19 is still here. Wearing masks, washing our hands frequently and practicing social distancing are all things I’m practicing — and I encourage all Tulsans to do the same to help protect our community.”

Hospitalizations and death statistics tend to lag behind new case counts. As of Friday, state health officials reported that 154 people were hospitalized due to the disease.

In addition to the peak in COVID-19 cases, state health officials also reported that two more people have died from the disease.

Both were men older than 65: a man from Muskogee County and a man from Comanche County, according to health department data.

Prevention of COVID-19’s spread remains the overall goal to reduce strain on hospitals and save lives. Prevention methods include social distancing, home isolation, face coverings and enhanced hygiene.

Public health officials started recommending in early April that people wear cloth face coverings to help prevent the disease’s spread. The recommendation is not to prevent the wearer from contracting the virus but to help prevent the wearer from unknowingly spreading it.

COVID-19 has an incubation period of two days to two weeks, during which time a person may be contagious but not have symptoms.

Social distancing means staying out of group or congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others.

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