Pandemic expert says spike in COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma is not ‘second wave'

What experts say need to happen to prevent surge in cases

TULSA, Okla. — A pandemic expert told FOX23 that Oklahoma’s recent spike in COVID-19 cases is not the “second wave” of the virus.

Dr. Julie Swann says we’re still in the first wave.

Dr. Swann is the head of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University where she studies how government leaders respond to a pandemic -- without overwhelming hospitals-- the efficient distribution of food and vaccines, and safe reopening businesses and schools.

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“Oklahoma may still be in the first wave -- where there is still a big increase to come that is much more significant than what has happened so far,” Dr. Swann says.

Dr. Swann urged people to continue to practice social distancing and wearing masks if only to protect others from the virus.

“We should continue to focus on what we know can work, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 including things like testing and contact tracing, as well as continuing to physically distance ourselves from others,” Dr. Swann says.

“If a lot of people wear face coverings, and that helps protect others around them and helps reduce the spread of the disease, then that will continue to flatten the peak.”

The idea of “herd immunity” is not ideal for waiting out the pandemic, according to Dr. Swann.

She says in order to achieve herd immunity, 60-80 percent of the population would have to be infected, and that would drive the number of deaths 5-10 times higher -- leaving everyone to only help to stop the spread until a vaccine can be made.

Dr. Swann says such a vaccine is likely still about a year away.

Health officials expressed concern over the spread of the virus at the recent rally for President Donald Trump at the BOK Center where authorities say about 6,200 people gathered together inside the area.

Dr. Swann says what happens on a given day affects the state’s number of cases two-to-three weeks later -- with hospitalizations and deaths lagging behind that pace -- therefore the effects of the president’s rally likely won’t be seen in the state’s reported numbers until early July.