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10 residents with COVID-19 at Oklahoma veterans center die

OKLAHOMA CITY >> Ten residents at a home for veterans in northeastern Oklahoma have died after being among dozens of residents and staffers there who tested positive for the coronavirus this month, a state official said today.

Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director Joel Kintsel said in a statement that 62 residents at the Claremore Veterans Center and 21 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 1.

He said COVID-19 wasn’t necessarily the cause of death for the 10 who died.

“Based on our contact tracing, we believe the most likely source for the virus was an asymptomatic employee who did not know they had the virus and unknowingly passed it on to a resident,” Kintsel said.

He said they’ve instituted strict infection control procedures and “are hopeful this outbreak has been contained.” He said only two new positive cases had emerged in the last 72 hours.

Kintsel said the Claremore facility houses 250 residents.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has returned to his office following two weeks of isolating himself at home after he tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I’m glad to be back in the saddle,” Stitt said in a video statement on his Twitter page Monday.

“Everyone I was in contact with continues to test negative for COVID-19 and no one has developed symptoms,” the Republican said in the video while sitting at his desk in his office at the state Capitol.

Stitt encouraged people to regularly wash their hands, socially distance and wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible.

Stitt had attended President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa last month, which health experts have said likely contributed to a surge in coronavirus cases there. State health officials have said that while it is not known where Stitt was infected it is not likely he contracted the virus at the rally.

The health department today reported 1,089 newly confirmed cases and 13 additional deaths, bringing to 509 the number of people who have died due to COVID-19.

The true number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs operates seven veterans centers across Oklahoma. There haven’t been any known cases at the centers in Ardmore, Clinton or Sulphur. The centers in Lawton and Talihina have each had one confirmed case and the resident has recovered. The Norman center is currently caring for one positive resident and another positive resident is in the hospital and four other residents have recovered.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

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