TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — The CDC reported more than 18,000 Oklahomans lost their lives to Coronavirus, 3 years after the first coronavirus death.
The CDC report ranks Oklahoma as the state with the second-highest death rate for coronavirus cases.
"I think Oklahoma has been a state that's maybe suffered a little bit more from COVID for a multitude of reasons. Including access to healthcare, being a primarily rural state," said Utica Park Clinic Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeffrey Galles.
Galles said those factors make the ranking a little less surprising, but Oklahoma health systems are in a much better place with handling the virus compared to three years ago.
"We're not seeing the big peaks like we saw in January of this year, and we're starting to see some leveling out," said Galles.
The Tulsa Health Department confirmed the first Coronavirus death back in March 2020.
While the news released three years ago Sunday, authorities said 55-year-old Merle Dry actually died March 18, just one day after testing positive for the coronavirus.
"Great family guy, loved everybody he saw," said Charles Dry, Dry's older brother.
Charles Dry said he and his family initially thought Merle just had the flu, but quickly realized it was much worse.
Merle Dry's death came at a time when many Oklahomans were still learning about the virus and its impact.
Several Tulsans told NewsChannel 8 the impact COVID had on their lives.
"I had a buddy of mine, his grandmother passed away from it," said one Tulsan.
Tulsa local Bernie Garland was asked by NewsChannel 8 if, back in 2020, he truly realized how much of an impact the virus would have on his way of life.
"COVID was just a monumental colossal surprise, and just a gamechanger for everybody," said Garland.
Galles told NewsChannel 8 what the path ahead could look like for the coronavirus and its impact on Oklahomans.
"What happens as we move through into the summer and into the fall we just don't know. Because the patterns look like we're seeing peaks in the summer and in the fall, in the winter; but we don't know what's going to happen because this virus changes so much," said Galles.