This article was published on March 12. For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Oklahoma, please visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the OKC-City County Health Department or our landing page on COVID-19 in OKC.
As of March 12, the Oklahoma State Health Department confirms three cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma and no sign of community spread. Two Utah Jazz players who were in Oklahoma City to play against the Thunder the evening of March 11 have also tested presumptive positive for COVID-19, which are not included in that state number. That game was called off just before tip-off and the Chesapeake Arena emptied of fans, who the Department of Health says are NOT at risk of catching COVID-19. One of the players who tested presumptive positive visited Del City High School Tuesday night, but health officials and Mid-Del Public Schools says the few people who were there with the player are not at risk.
As President Trump issued a travel ban from most of Europe, the NBA has suspended its season indefinitely, the NCAA and Big 12 tournaments have been canceled, local universities are extending Spring Break or moving classes online and metro events are being canceled or modified, concern is spreading in the metro about the risk and proper protocol families should follow.
We reported last week on what Oklahoma parents need to know about COVID-19, including risk factors, kid susceptibility, how to protect your family and how to talk with your kids about COVID-19.
As the situation continues to evolve, here are new and updated FAQs as it relates to Spring Break, travel and the foreseeable future.
What is social distancing and does my family need to practice it?
Social distancing means avoiding large groups of people and keeping at least three feet away from others in public, six feet if someone is coughing, says Dr. Erica Faulconer, pediatrician with Northwest Pediatrics in Oklahoma City and mom of three. Faulconer says at this point the goal is to reduce the peak and spread of COVID-19 and the best way to do so is prevention. Yes, families need to be practicing social distancing, limiting gatherings to small groups, not so much to prevent themselves from getting sick if they are healthy, but to avoid spreading it to vulnerable populations like grandparents and those who are immunocompromised.
In monitoring the situation in Italy where the healthcare system has been overwhelmed, it’s important to attempt to avoid a similar situation here. Faulconer is concerned about reports of Italy’s medical professionals being quarantined leading to an understaffed system and not enough protective equipment.
Social distancing doesn’t equate to staying at home with the doors locked but it does mean being proactive and cautious when around others and in public.
How concerned should I be about older relatives or my kids who are immunocompromised?
Faulconer says when it doubt, stay home. Those who are immunocompromised have the potential to get sicker than the general population from COVID-19. Parent to parent, Faulconer advises you’ll never fault yourself retrospectively for what may feel at the time like overreacting.
When I do venture out, what can I do to protect myself and my family?
Practice healthy habits like frequent hand washing and remind kids (and adults!) not to touch their faces. Washing hands with soap and water is the best defense, but hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol (if you can find it) is a good option when you’re without soap and water. Always wash hands before eating especially.
Speaking of hand sanitizer, can I make my own if I can’t find it in stores?
Faulconer says no because it’s hard to know how effective homemade products really are, especially when it comes to correctly determining the alcohol percentage. Err on the side of using store-bought products that contain at least 60 percent alcohol.
What can I do at home?
Faulconer says in terms of cleaning products, Lysol and Clorox products are your family’s best defense against germs. Clorox wipes are only effective if you’re using them on one surface at a time and not, say, cleaning the bathroom and then using the same wipe on the door knob because you can actually spread germs instead of killing them. Faulconer recommends sprays you can leave on a surface for three minutes and then wipe off to assure you’ve killed the germs.
What does this mean for Spring Break travel plans?
In addition to the CDC’s recommendations about traveling out of the country, they have also issued recommendations for traveling in the United States. If you’re sick, even with a simple runny nose you think could be allergies, Faulconer says you need to stay home. She recommends considering the following about the location you’ll be traveling to: how COVID-19 is affecting the area, how much potential contact you’ll have with people while there and whether you could put our community at higher risk upon your return.
What about Spring Break plans in OKC?
We are closely monitoring local attractions and events plans and cancelations for Spring Break. We’ll keep an updated list here, but let us know at email@example.com if you know of a change or closing we haven’t listed. Some attractions will proceed with modified activities in accordance with appropriate social distancing. Some, like Oklahoma Contemporary and National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum have canceled exhibit and grand opening events. Visit our up-to-date list of attractions and events closings and those remaining open, double check with any local attractions before you go and, above all else, please don’t venture out if you are sick.
If you’re sick or just concerned about exposing your family to germs outside the home, plan Spring Break activities at home. Take advantage of services like grocery pick-up or delivery. Opt for take-out instead of eating in a restaurant or try out a new recipe together.
How do I impart the seriousness of COVID-19 to my kids without scaring them?
With her own kids and her patients, Faulconer knows there is a fine line between being cautious and preventative and inciting fear. Honesty is the best policy but Faulconer says it’s all in how you frame the information. For example, instead of explaining that you’re being cautious because you don’t want to risk grandparents getting so sick they have to go to the hospital, say you are helping to keep grandparents healthy because they are at a higher risk.