State Department Of Health Hopes New Kits Will Allow Agency To Run Coronavirus Tests Locally

Wednesday, March 4th 2020, 6:11 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

The number of deaths in the United States attributed to coronavirus has risen to eleven. This as the focus now turns to testing to find out how widespread the disease actually is. 

The Oklahoma State Department of Health said they now have the ability to speed up the testing process here in our state. A health department spokesperson told News 9 they have the kits to do the testing in their local lab and are currently checking their viability with hopes to start local testing as soon as possible.

Once at full capacity the Oklahoma Health Department lab will be able to process 100 COVID-19 tests per day. Patients with a negative result would likely learn the same day if they are fine. Positive results would be sent on to the CDC for confirmation.

“Testing is the next big step,” said Dr. Douglas Drevets, an infectious disease specialist with OU Health Sciences Center. “If we test lots of people it informs us how much transmission and how much disease is out there in the community.

The CDC has expanded their criteria of who should be tested. New guidelines say any American who suspects they could have coronavirus can be tested. Those who fear they may have the virus are asked to call their doctor who will then work with the Oklahoma Health Department to see if testing is necessary.

“In these sorts of situations, you just don’t want to show up in a public place where there are other people around, some of which may have compromised immune systems and be coughing and sputtering,” explained Dr. Drevets.

At OU Dr. Drevets said they are working on a variety of preparedness plans to deal with the virus and that will likely include using private coronavirus testing companies to keep up with demand. 

“I don’t anticipate that Oklahoma will have a huge number of cases this week or next week. But after that all bets are off. We are not isolated; we are not on an island. We are right in the middle of the U.S. It will get here.”

Dr. Drevets said since we don't know now who has the disease, to start taking precautions by not shaking anyone's hand and keeping a safe social distance away from others.