November 9, 2020
Dear OU Community,
You’ve probably heard that COVID-19 cases are rising in Oklahoma. Over the weekend, our state saw an all-time high of newly reported cases of COVID-19, with over 4,500 reported new cases in a single day. While some of these numbers were the result of a reporting backlog, this news is nonetheless unsettling. In the past week, more than 10,000 new cases of infection have been reported in Oklahoma, with 103 deaths. The number of people hospitalized in Oklahoma has also reached an all-time high. We have recently seen an increase in positive COVID-19 tests among OU students, staff, and faculty.
When we have discussions with those in the OU community who have tested positive for COVID-19, we find that most of them got this infection off campus or from roommates who have tested positive. Indeed, we have not documented any transmission in our classrooms. That is not surprising. We have made our campus a safe place to learn and work by enforcing the use of masks in our buildings, requiring social distancing, limiting the size of groups that can meet together, and enhancing cleaning and disinfection of our facilities.
So, where have OU community members contracted this virus?
- Household Contacts – Recent studies show that 46-60% of the people living with an individual who has COVID-19 will get the infection. It is very important to isolate anyone in the household who gets infected and follow the same procedures at home that you do here on campus (wear masks, socially distance, enhance disinfection, and practice frequent hand hygiene). See also Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deciding to Go Out.
- Because household contacts are a common source of infection, it is prudent to limit family gatherings at this time and avoid having any in-home events that could put you or your loved ones at risk of the infection. We have great concern about family gatherings for upcoming holidays where there may be children, parents, and grandparents may gather.
- With the holidays upon us, we are encouraging students to get a free COVID-19 test before they go home for Thanksgiving, and again if they are returning to campus after the holiday.
- Remember that 40-45% of the people who get this infection look well and have no symptoms – yet they can spread the virus. That makes it easy for people to unwittingly infect others.
- Venues Where You Don’t Have to Wear a Mask – It is well known that going to places such as bars, restaurants, gyms, places of worship (including for weddings and funerals), house parties, theaters, etc., where people are not wearing a mask puts you at risk of this infection. This includes your family members or household contacts who go to these venues and who could bring the infection into your home.
- Any Place Where People are Crowded Together (particularly indoor events) – Wearing a mask in a crowd can reduce your risk of getting COVID-19 but does not eliminate it. Avoid events that bring crowds of people together, particularly in indoor settings.
Please remember the best protection for avoiding infection is to follow our university COVID-19 policies, even when you are at home and in the community: wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands often. Each one of us can help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Dale W. Bratzler, DO, MPH, MACOI, FIDSA
University Chief COVID Officer
Professor, College of Medicine and Hudson College of Public Health
Enterprise Chief Quality Officer – OU Medicine