A nonprofit serving homeless teens in the Oklahoma City metro, Sisu Youth Services, was the first in the state to take advantage of a free COVID-19 testing program.
The testing has been provided through Operation Expanded Testing. The goal of the initiative is to provide fully funded polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, surveillance testing to schools and community organizations, like Sisu, a safety measure against COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense are funding this program, which is carried out by the health tech company Affinity Empowering.
"We do about 25 tests a week that includes our staff any clients that are staying with us or any clients that drop in and want to get tested for themselves," Sisu Youth Services resource development director Rachel Bradley said.
Bradley said they receive COVID tests every week in the mail thanks to Operation Expanded Testing. The initiative was launched back in June by the Biden Administration.
"Scheduling tests right now is really hard and transportation is a huge barrier for youth experiencing homelessness," Bradley said. "So for us to have this on sight and weekly and kind of on demand has been a gamechanger in helping us stay safe."
Testing takes place twice a week and each time the turnaround for results is 24 hours.
"Each person does two tests," Bradley said. "They'll put one in a pool specimen, so the company runs one test when it gets there. If all are negative, we save the resources and time of testing everyone individually. but we do have that option. So, if something is positive, they are able to go through and test individually.”
Bradley said if someone is positive, thanks to the testing, she has confidence they'll catch it quick. Thankfully, they haven't had any positives yet.
"Fingers crossed that we can keep that going," Bradley said.
For more information on Affinity Empowering, you can click here.