OSDH Issues New Rules For How, Where To Get Coronavirus Testing
OKLAHOMA CITY - After early confusion about how and where Oklahomans can get tested for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, the State Department of Health has released its guidelines for the sick, doctors and hospitals on how coronavirus testing should be administered.
In a media release, OSDH said anyone showing symptoms who has also been in close contact with someone known to have the virus or has recently traveled form an area with the ongoing spread of the virus is asked to contact their doctor or the state hotline. Symptoms include fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing. Those older than 60-years-old or who have compromised immune systems should also call their doctors to discuss symptoms and get an in-person evaluation to determine whether a test for the Coronavirus or another respiratory illness is needed.
Those who may be sick are being told not to visit an emergency room unless it’s essential, which would mean symptoms more serious than a cough or fever. Currently testing is being done through the state health department. Neither of the county health departments covering the state’s largest cities, Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties, are administering tests, according to the release.
It’s still unclear how many testing kits the state has been given, nor how many have been distributed to rural parts of the state. Many rural hospitals serve a large area and only have a limited number of doctors, some only having one full time doctor on staff.
“We have the capacity to run about 100 tests a day and we have a number of test kits,” Commissioner of Health Gary Cox said during a press conference on Thursday. “We're ordering additional reagents at the time. So, we have the current capacity I think for about 300 tests.” Oklahoma has had three positive cases of the virus so far with 4 still pending. 36 tests have returned negative.
Doctors are also being encouraged to use their own judgement when ordering testing. The orders must be discussed with a public health official who can deny a test to a patient who thinks they may be infected with the novel coronavirus.
State health department officials have also been urging the practice of “social distancing” in hopes of preventing the spread of the virus. They say frequently washing hands and disinfecting hard surfaces will help prevent the spread of disease as well as refraining from touching near the eyes, nose or mouth.
Face masks, according to the release should only be worn if someone has symptoms to prevent the spread of contaminated droplets that are released when coughing or sneezing.
They also encourage staying home from work when symptoms are present. Oklahoma is among 38 states that do not mandate paid sick leave. However according to a recent Pew Research study, only 74 percent of the state’s region, which includes TX, AR and LA, had access to paid sick leave through their employers.
Questions about the virus can be directed to the OSDH Coronavirus hotline at 877-215-8336 between 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon. through Fri and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.