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Kay County addressing COVID-19 concerns

By Everett Brazil, III

The Newkirk Herald Journal

NEWKIRK — The COVID-19 Delta variant has been spreading across the United States, as well as within the Kay County and Oklahoma, leading to many hospitalizations, especially to unvaccinated populations. The Oklahoma and Kay County health communities are now working hard to spread awareness of the virus and keep the community safe from disease.

Most new cases of COVID-19 have been from the Delta variant, a mutated version of the original COVID-19 virus that was so deadly in 2020. The Delta variant is more dangerous than previous variants by replicating inside cells at a rate of 1,200. Conversely, the previous contagion only replicated about 400 times.

“This one is 1,200 times more (likely to mutate than) the previous kind. It makes it that much more contagious,” said Scott Haywood, Kay County Health Department public information officer.

Three other variants have been identified in the country, including Lambda, Gamma and Wu. Limited cases of Lambda and Gamma have been identified in Oklahoma.

“The Lambda and Gamma are relatively new, with 2,400 cases reported from the Lambda variant,” Haywood said. “The Lambda is as contagious as the Delta.”

The Oklahoma Department of Health keeps track of cases of COVID-19, as well as immunizations across the state, down to individual communities. As of Sept. 7, Kay County has had 6,098 COVID-19 cases. Individual communities include Ponca City, 4,412; Blackwell, 822; Newkirk, 509; Tonkawa, 426; Kaw City, 78; and Braman, 30, as recorded Sept. 7.

In Newkirk, 485 recovered, while seven have passed on.

Newkirk Public Schools created the “Return to Learn” program in 2020 to know what to do if an outbreak were to occur. Students previously had the option to learn virtually during the 2020 – 2021 school year. During the current school year, all learning is in-class, except for a rise in COVID-19 cases.School administrators are asking parents to continue monitoring students for viral health symptoms prior to going to school.

“We are following guidelines laid out for us by our health department, as well as the CDC in an effort to keep our students and employees as safe as possible,” said Superintendent Scott Kempenich.

The school is also reporting weekly levels on the Web site,

“If you go to our Web site, there is a tab called ‘COVID reporting.’ It pulls up our year-to-date reporting, as well as the previous week’s numbers,” Kempenich said.

Last week saw three positive cases at NHS, two at NMS and only one at NES. Quarantined students have been higher due to contact tracing, with 39 at NHS, 15 at NMS and three at NES.

The next post will be Monday, Sept. 13.

Haywood sees positivity during the pandemic as there are rising rates of vaccinations, he said. The big concern is the new variants, which could compromise the vaccine.

“There is 48.3 percent of (Kay County) residents that have at least one dose,” Haywood said. “The biggest concern is a variety that can get around the vaccine.”


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