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Officials Discuss Local Preparation for Coronavirus

Conner Caughlin
Gaylord News

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) becomes more widespread in the United States, communities are getting prepared with insight from Washington and Oklahoma City.

This week, Congress held multiple hearings about COVID-19 and passed a bipartisan bill allowing $8.3 billion in emergency funding. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would receive $2.2 billion, which includes state-level medical support and vaccine research. The bill will reach President Trump’s desk by the end of the week. 

The Oklahoma Hospital Association released a statement assuring its facilities are ready to handle a potential Oklahoma outbreak. OHA Vice President of Quality and Clinical Initiatives LaWanna Halstead spoke about the readiness of Oklahoma healthcare facilities.

“Hospitals have to have preparedness plans all the time because they take care of infectious disease patients all the time,” Halstead said. “They’re surveyed by the state to see if they have the plans in place...the rural facilities also have emergency preparedness plans. They might not be as effective with something like this, possibly, but they have to be prepared.”

She also stated that self-quarantining will slow the spread of the virus if it impacts Oklahoma.

“Unless a patient is critically ill, they won’t be in a hospital,” she said. “If someone comes to an emergency center with a cough and a fever...they’ll go back home and we’ll educate them as to what to do as they isolate themselves.”

Oklahoma delegates are taking action against COVID-19. Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) will host a healthcare town hall from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the OKC-County Health Department. She will bring in experts to hear her constituents’ concerns and educate them on healthy habits.

“My top priority is making sure Oklahomans have the information and access to care they need to stay healthy,” Horn said. “This Saturday’s event will include information from health experts on how to protect and care for yourself and your loved ones and what steps we can take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. During a public health emergency it is more important than ever that individuals have access to affordable, quality care...We cannot let Oklahomans fall through the cracks of our health system.”

All five Oklahoma delegates in the House approved the emergency fund plan on Wednesday. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said he was pleased with the cooperation he observed between both parties.

“As the United States continues to monitor and respond to coronavirus, I am encouraged that Congress and the [Trump] Administration worked together across party lines to deliver critical resources for the days ahead,” Cole said. “In such a highly polarized and partisan environment, I am very encouraged that we could set aside our differences and quickly deliver on such a high priority item for the health and safety of the American people.”

In addition, Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) voted in favor of the bill on Thursday afternoon during the Senate vote. 

“I am glad we could come together and pass this emergency funding package in the Senate that will ensure we have enough resources for containment efforts, research and development of vaccinations, screening, treatment and other needs associated with the coronavirus,” Inhofe said.

The World Health Organization’s website has a newsfeed to consolidate reputable COVID-19 research as it becomes available. The WHO is also actively tweeting updates to inform users of the most effective ways to stay healthy and to debunk myths about the virus. 

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.