According to Oklahoma State University, more than half of all COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma have come from rural areas.
Now, winter weather is causing testing problems across rural northwest Oklahoma.
County testing sites in Alva, Woodward, Clinton, Weatherford, Laverne and Beaver were forced to shut down Wednesday.
“We did stop testing in those sites due to inclement weather,” State Health Department Regional Director Terri Salisbury said. “We do curbside testing, the extreme wind chill and blowing snow, it’s not conducive for the staff to be out testing.”
Contact tracing is continuing in all but at the Harper County Health Department in Laverne.
Wednesday’s wind chills were in the 20s and some areas seeing a foot of snow was too much for PPE clad healthcare workers.
“They have been excellent troopers through all of this. I can’t say enough about the staff we have,” Salisbury said.
Another major problem, the swabs must be driven to Oklahoma City or Stillwater to be processed. Winter weather is making the trek of nearly 300 miles for some specimens treacherous.
“We start at 8 o’clock in the morning picking up specimens from Guymon,” Salisbury said. “The conditions of the roads and not knowing how it would deteriorate over the day, it’s just not safe to have those couriers out on the roads.”
She said the health departments will re-evaluate conditions Thursday.