Press Release

July 28, 2020

OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS PROVIDES UPDATE ON COVID-19 RESPONSE

ODVA

OKLAHOMA CITY (July 28, 2020) – Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs Ben Robinson was joined today by Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director Joel Kintsel, Oklahoma City VA Health Care System Director Wade Vlosich and Oklahoma State Department of Health Deputy Commissioner Keith Reed to provide an update on the State’s response to COVID-19. 

Specifically, Kintsel reported a situation update regarding the impact of COVID-19 at Claremore Veterans Center.

Since July 1, 62 residents and 21 staff members at Claremore Veterans Center have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Of those residents, 34 are either asymptomatic or demonstrating mild symptoms, 18 are demonstrating moderate to severe symptoms, three have fully recovered and 10 residents are deceased. 

Kintsel stressed that COVID-19 was not necessarily the cause of death for the 10 deceased residents, only that they had previously tested positive for the virus. The 21 staff members are currently all isolating at their homes. 

“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,” said Kintsel. “We have instituted strict infection control procedures and remain committed to working with OSDH to ensure best practices are followed regarding isolation, testing and contact tracing. With just two additional positive tests over the last 72 hours, we are hopeful this outbreak has been contained.”

Under the direction of ODVA, and in accordance with OSDH and CDC best practices, the third floor of Claremore Veterans Center has been converted to a COVID-only ward to isolate those residents from the rest of the population. Residents have also been transferred to local hospitals in the Claremore area as well as VA hospitals in Muskogee and Oklahoma City.

Residents who have been transferred will not return to Claremore Veterans Center until they have tested negative for COVID-19.

“Protecting the health and lives of our veterans is my top priority,” said Governor Kevin Stitt. “I applaud the work of OSDH and ODVA to get the situation in Claremore under control, and I remain committed to providing whatever resources necessary to give our heroic veterans the care they deserve.”

At the request of Kintsel, an OSDH long-term care response team deployed to Claremore Veterans Center last week to conduct an assessment. It did not issue any citations for violations of long-term care facility protocols.

“Since the onset of COVID-19, the ODVA has worked diligently with the Oklahoma State Department of Health and our partners at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to best fulfill the agency’s mission to provide our veterans with the highest quality support and care available anywhere in the nation,” said Sec. Robinson. “On March 14, we locked down our veteran centers –

which was a very tough decision for us to make because it meant separating loved ones from their veterans – but we knew it was the right thing to do. As a result, we have seen limited spread of COVID-19 in a majority of our facilities across the state.”

ODVA operates seven veterans centers across Oklahoma. 

Ardmore, Clinton and Sulphur Veterans Centers have not had a known case of COVID-19. Lawton Veterans Center has had one confirmed case and that resident has recovered; Norman Veterans Center has one positive resident being cared for in-house, one positive resident in the hospital and four other residents who have recovered; and Talihina Veterans Center has had one confirmed case and that resident has recovered.  

There have been no COVID-19 related deaths outside of Claremore Veterans Center. 

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