“We are running consistently between 17-19 percent positivity rate. That means every week we have several hundred new positive patients in our system.” -Muscogee Nation Secretary of Health Shawn Terry
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma – Muscogee Nation Secretary of Health Shawn Terry paid a visit to Mvskoke Radio Sept. 1 to give an update on COVID-19 around the Reservation.
Terry claimed the last few weeks have been especially hard for the Muscogee Nation Department of Health due to the high numbers of positive cases.
“We have tested probably 1,500 patients in the last seven days,” Terry said. “We are running consistently between 17-19 percent positivity rate. That means every week we have several hundred new positive patients in our system.”
Not only is COVID a major presence in the tribe’s health facilities but the start of school has shown high rises in other illnesses.
“We are seeing high numbers of strep, RSV and a touch of flu as well,” he said. “Not only do you have COVID spread out there, but you have those other illnesses that are popping up as well.”
According to Terry, there were nine COVID patients at the Medical Center in Okmulgee as of Sept. 1, one patient at the Okemah location and a volume of 50 walk-in COVID patients daily at the newly opened Council Oak Comprehensive Health Urgent Care in Tulsa.
“All of the hospitals around the state have been very full,” Terry said. “Once these patients get to a level where they need intensive care, we have to send those patients outside of our system. Especially when they get to ventilator, often times there has not been a place to send them to.”
Terry said the health system has had to manage critical cases in emergency rooms due to the lack of beds for Intensive Care Units across the state. He also claimed that unvaccinated patients who reach critical condition (on a ventilator) have had a 100 percent fatality rate in the MCNDH System.
“If you are unvaccinated and you get on a ventilator, your chances of making it are almost zero,” he said. “But if you are vaccinated, your chances of dying with COVID is reduced 95%, your chance of being hospitalized is reduced 85%.”
In addition to the vaccination, the MCNDH offers the monoclonal antibody treatment.
“One thing we are in the process now of planning up at our Council Oak facility in Tulsa, we’re going to do monoclonal antibody infusion center,” Terry said. “This will give us the ability to infuse 30-40 patients a day.”
According to Terry, the infusion center opens Sept. 13.
“We are spending a big part of time trying to get that facility ready,” he said. “We are also spending a lot of time getting ready for the booster shots.”
The FDA has approved a third dose for those who are immune compromised with existing health conditions.
Terry claimed MNDH expects it to be approved for the whole population around Sept. 19.
“What we are being told so far is you have needed to have your last vaccine eight months ago or longer to be eligible for that shot,” Terry said.
Terry mentioned that those who had taken the Johnson & Johnson single dose shot are not eligible to receive the third booster shots.
The upcoming vaccine could be compared to the flu shot according to Terry.
“Like the flu virus, it mutates every year,” Terry said. “So, the flu virus you got this year is not the same flu virus you got last year. Every time we create a flu vaccine, they create the vaccine for this year’s flu from last year’s flu. So, with COVID we know that this vaccine was created with the Alpha variant that has mutated to the Delta variant. We are hearing cases of the Lambda variant that have shown up Texas.”
According to Terry, this may be something to deal with for years to come if the virus continues to mutate.
“At some point in time, people are going to have to comfortable that this is something we are going to have to protect ourselves from and other real protection is to vaccinate.”
As the State of Oklahoma is battling mask mandates, Terry said he is tiring of the fight over the ordeal.
“We know that a mask is one small step to mitigating the spread,” he said. “It doesn’t prevent you from getting COVID, it slows the droplets and it’s slowing the possibility of you catching it from an infected person but the only thing we know that stops it 100 percent is for you to not be around an infected person, so masking is important.”
“You should wear a mask especially if you think you have symptoms and if you’re going to be around people in a room and you don’t know if they are vaccinated or unvaccinated or positive.”
According to Terry, patients can be positive for days without symptoms leading to prolonging getting tested.
“That’s one of the reasons we try to encourage people that if you have been exposed then you really need to go get tested,” Terry said. “You cannot have symptoms and still be spreading this out there. It’s something we have never had to deal with in this way before.”
He said outside activities help prevent the spread of COVID due to the ventilation which plays a major role in the virus.
Terry claimed he had no part in the decision of canceling the Muscogee Festival, but provided the Chief’s office with health information concerning the virus that possibly aided the decision.
Press Secretary Jason Salsman stated in a previous interview regarding the Festival, the Nation’s concern was to get more people vaccinated.
“We only know of one thing that will reduce your chance by 95 percent and that’s the vaccine,” Terry said. “We have one mission and that’s to take care of our people.”
The MCNDH advises citizens to continue to take precautions for the virus, social distancing, mask wearing and getting the vaccine.
All MCNDH locations provide on-site testing and available vaccinations.