Oklahoma upgrading COVID data, expects increase in positives
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma is making a number of changes to how it reports coronavirus data and expects an increase in the number of confirmed positive cases as a result, health officials said Friday.
Among the changes, positive results from rapid antigen tests will now be counted as positive cases. Previously, positive results from antigen tests were considered “probable” and were treated the same by the Department of Health in terms of contact tracing and investigation, but were not included in the daily case count, said Oklahoma Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye.
“In the past, there were very few antigen tests and the ones that were out there were not that good, frankly,” Frye said. “The new machines are better.”
Frye said more than 200 antigen machines and testing kits are being deployed to Oklahoma nursing homes, and that more will be deployed to schools by the end of the year.
The changes will be reflected in the state’s data reporting beginning on Tuesday, Frye said.
Dr. George Monks, the head of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, praised agency officials for the changes, particularly the inclusion of antigen test results, saying he expects improvements in both the quality and accuracy of state reporting.
The state agency also is making plans for statewide vaccine distribution after the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified states last week that it could be ready to distribute a vaccine by Nov. 1.
Oklahoma’s Deputy Health Commissioner Keith Reed said health care workers, first responders, residents of long-term care facilities and those over the age of 65 with certain underlying health conditions would take priority in vaccine distribution.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is facing a major outbreak of COVID-19 at the Eddie Warrior women’s prison in Taft, northeast Oklahoma. The agency reported Friday that 721 inmates and 16 staff members at the 800-bed minimum security facility have tested positive for the virus. Inmates there are housed in open-dorm units.
The agency announced last week it was distributing additional protective gear to staff, closing visitation and volunteer access, and shifting work stations to try and prevent further spread of the virus.
Health officials on Friday reported an additional 1,103 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 11 more deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the state to 62,040 and the death toll to 846. The actual number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.