Oklahoma gymnastics facility at the center of a 21-case outbreak of Indian Delta variant in April

A gymnastics facility was at the center of a COVID-19 outbreak in central Oklahoma with several cases linked to the Indian ‘Delta’ variant, a new report reveals.

From mid-April to early May, 47 cases were found to have originated at the facility, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed on Friday.

Of those cases, nearly half – 21 – were found to be caused by the variant.  

The outbreak is one of the earlier outbreaks of the Delta variant in the country, and was a precursor to how quickly the variant – which has since become the nation’s dominant strain – could spread when given the opportunity. 

Cases associated with the gymnastics facility began in mid-April, and reached their peak on April 20

‘These findings suggest that the B.1.617.2 [Delta] variant is highly transmissible in indoor sports settings and households, which might lead to higher attack rates among exposed persons,’ wrote a research team led by epidemiologists from Oklahoma State University. 

The first case was recorded on April 15 after members of the gym competed at an out-of-state meet from April 15 to 18. 

At the time, members were not aware that they had the start of an outbreak on their hands.

Cases tied to the gym would slowly grow over the next few days, until April 20, where the peak of eight new cases associated with the gym was reached.

Gymnasts then competed in another out-of-state meet from April 23 to 26.

In total, 194 people were identified as being exposed to the virus, though no cases were detected at other gyms that could be tied back to the central Oklahoma outbreak. 

As of May 27, officials identified 47 COVID-19 cases associated with facility including in 23 gymnasts, three staff members and 21 household contacts.    

Two cases were so severe they required hospitalization, with one person requiring intensive care. 

Health officials have tied 47 central Oklahoma cases to a single gymnastics facility in central Oklahoma, with at least 21 cases being of the Delta variant (File Photo)

Health officials have tied 47 central Oklahoma cases to a single gymnastics facility in central Oklahoma, with at least 21 cases being of the Delta variant (File Photo)

Younger people made a majority of the cases, with 31 of the 47 being detected among people 19 or younger – or 66 percent.  

Of those who were infected, 85 percent, or 40 people, were unvaccinated. 

Three people, or six percent, had received one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech shot and four people, or the remaining nine percent, were fully vaccinated with vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or Johnson & Johnson.  

The Delta variant may be more likely to cause breakthrough cases than some other strains of the virus, though the cases are generally less severe. 

Both of the people who ended up hospitalized due to the outbreak were unvaccinated.

The researchers still recommend that people get vaccinated to protect against all strains of the virus, as that it still the best defense people may have.

‘Although the actual effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against the B.1.617.2 [Delta] variant is not known at this time, current evidence indicates that vaccines approved under Emergency Use Authorization in the United States are effective against the variant,’ the authors wrote.

‘All eligible persons, including athletes and athletic staff members, should receive COVID-19 vaccination, especially those engaging in strenuous sports with limited ability to maintain physical distancing.’

Oklahoma has since see its COVID cases rise once again, as the Delta variant hammers the midwestern state.

On June 1, the state was averaging 124 new cases a day.

That number has risen all the way to 283 a day on average on July 8 – a 128 percent increase – with the daily cases only expected to trend upwards.

The state’s low vaccination rate, with less than 40 percent of people fully vaccinated, is not helping either. 

Oklahoma also shares a border with southwest Missouri and north Texas – two areas that are currently being overwhelmed by the Delta variant.

‘I’m pretty sure the Delta virus variant is coming into Oklahoma from southwest Missouri, where it’s completely taken over,’ said Dr Dale Bratzler, University of Oklahoma Health’s chief COVID-19 officer, to KOCO.

‘It’s going to march its way down I-44 into the state.’  

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