As of Christmas Eve, Oklahoma was averaging 26 reported COVID deaths per day with as many as 45 reported dead one day last week.
Petitt emphasized that it’s not just older people who are dying.
She’s seen people in their 20s and 40s die. They aren’t numbers on a graph, she said, they are real people with lives who are unable to visit in person with loved ones because community spread of the disease is out of control.
“We learned early on that once a patient goes on the ventilator, it’s harder to get them off,” Petitt said. “So if we know that our next step is to put them on the ventilator, we try to facilitate a call between family and patient.
“We’re hearing a lot of these last conversations they’ll have with their families. That’s a heavy load to bear to know that this is the last time that they’re going to talk to their families, and we’re kind of witness to that.”
Pandemic amplifies struggles
Dr. Gerard Clancy also made an appearance on the news conference to discuss the poor state of mental health in the U.S.
Clancy, former president of the University of Tulsa, is senior associate dean for external affairs and professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa.
“Even before COVID in 2019, we had a struggling society. We had seen a doubling of the suicide rate over the past decade,” Clancy said. “What we call ‘deaths of despair,’ which is alcohol-related deaths, substance abuse-related deaths and suicide, had been steadily rising over the past 15 years across America as well.”