The CDC’s latest data showed Oklahoma has 11 cases of five different variants of COVID-19.
Variants are viruses that have changed or mutated, making them challenging to detect or control.
According to the CDC, the five strains of COVID-19 identified in Oklahoma include two “variants of interest,” which are not any more contagious than the original virus and also three “variants of concern,” which tend to spread faster.
Of the “variants of concerns,” Oklahoma has had nine confirmed cases of the UK variant, which is the predominant strain driving a surge of cases in the United States. Oklahoma also has one known case of the Brazil variant and one of the South Africa variant.
News On 6 asked OU Health's Chief COVID-19 officer, Dr. Dale Bratzler, why Oklahoma’s numbers are low compared to other states, such as Michigan, which has more than 2,200 confirmed variant cases.
"Oklahoma was not in one of the surveillance states that the CDC was routinely testing, so that kept our numbers low, and then we just haven't had the capacity to do variant testing until recently," explained Bratzler.
Bratzler also said testing for different strains requires special equipment and training.
"To do genomic sequencing, you actually have to be able to break down the entire RNA of the virus and look at the entire genetic sequence," explained Bratzler.
Bratzler added as labs across the state plan to ramp up variant testing, the public should get vaccinated.
"If we can slow the spread of any of the variants right now and even the original virus, we will see fewer mutations and have less likelihood we would have an outbreak," said Bratzler.
News On 6 tried to ask the state health department how many specimens are being tested for variants and Oklahoma's ability to test. A spokesperson said no one is available until Thursday. News On 6 plans to follow up then.