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Oklahoma To Increase Testing Capacity And Contract Tracing

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday unveiled the state's plan to increase testing and contact tracing, particularly in the state's underserved areas.

As Oklahoma continues to reopen the state, state officials plan to provide underserved areas of Oklahoma, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus, with greater access to testing.

On Friday, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) reported a total of 3,748 COVID-19 cases, with 230 deaths, Texas County reported 138 confirmed cases, up from around 50 cases a week ago. Beaver County reported nine cases and Cimarron County reported one, as of Friday.  

During a press conference Thursday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said the state’s plan to increase testing and contact tracing is aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, as the state continues its phased approach to reopening.

Commissioner of Health Gary Cox said the increased testing and contract tracing are essential to reopening the state.  

“Governor Stitt called for all COVID-19 testing locations to expand access to all Oklahomans – even those with no symptoms. This is critically important, and OSDH and our partners are prepared to handle this increase,” Cox said.

The OSDH plans to collect and process 90,000 specimens by the end of May. It will also increase its contact tracing team from 150 to 650 trained tracers in the coming weeks, in partnership with the Oklahoma National Guard and the state’s medical institutions.

Some underserved areas of the state will be reached with Caring Vans, a fleet of vans provided by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, to bring testing to those without access to transportation.

The state’s testing capacity, according to the press release, has doubled every week, with 80 drive-thru testing sites being opened in the past eight weeks. Click here for locations near you.

Cox said the state also has in place a plan to provide testing to all nursing home residents, but he urged all Oklahomans to get tested at drive-thru facilities.

“Your participation will allow us to expand our knowledge on the level of community spread and the number of people who are asymptomatic,” Cox said.

Last week, as reported by HPPR, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt began reopening the state last Friday with phase one of a three-phased approach.

In this first phase, certain businesses, such as hair salons, barbershops, spas, nail salons and pet groomers, were allowed to reopen, provided they adhere to sanitation protocols and follow social distancing guidelines. Grocery stores and other retail stores were also allowed to reopen.

In part two of phase one, which began Friday, the following types of businesses were allowed to reopen: dining, entertainment, movie theaters, sporting venues, gyms, churches and tattoo parlors, provide they follow CDC-recommended social distancing and sanitation protocols. Bars were not allowed to reopen.

Phases two and three are contingent upon COVID-19 hospitalization rates remaining at a manageable level for 14 or more days.

More information about the state’s phased opening plan can be found here.