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State low on COVID-19 testing supplies, will reserve tests for most vulnerable; Oklahoma's first nursing home resident diagnosed with COVID-19

State low on COVID-19 testing supplies, will reserve tests for most vulnerable; Oklahoma's first nursing home resident diagnosed with COVID-19



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OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma is low on testing supplies to detect COVID-19 and is reserving tests for the most vulnerable, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Wednesday.

“The state is going to have to reserve until further notice tests for only vulnerable populations, those experiencing severe symptoms,” Stitt said.

The governor and health care professionals held a Capitol news conference Wednesday to discuss the spread of COVID-19 and efforts to slow it.

Earlier in the day, the state Department of Health reported 12 new cases, including the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a toddler in Oklahoma, and Steve Buck, president and executive director of Care Providers of Oklahoma, said the state now has its first confirmed case related to a nursing home resident.

The state’s total for confirmed cases stood at 31.

Tulsa Health Department officials reported one new case in Tulsa County, bringing the total COVID-19 cases here to four.

State Epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed said that as of Wednesday morning, the Health Department had about 300 test kits but has received 200 specimens for testing.

Officials said the tests are being limited to the most vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those who have severe symptoms and an underlying heart, lung or immune system condition. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Burnsed said the state has put in the maximum order for additional supplies, but “unfortunately there is no specific delivery date.”

Part of the problem is obtaining the reagents used in the testing process, he said.

Stitt said state Health Commissioner Gary Cox was meeting with leaders of private testing labs to figure out how to address the critical national shortage.

“We have been and continue to be pushing very hard with the federal government to get more test kits in the state,” Stitt said, adding that he has been in contact with the state’s congressional delegation on the matter.

The nursing home resident’s diagnosis occurred after the person was hospitalized, Buck said. The person likely will be discharged to family care rather than return to the nursing home, he said.

Buck noted that such facilities have put restrictions on visitation, which he understands can be frustrating. He said family members of residents should use teleconferencing or video conferencing and write letters.

Care Providers of Oklahoma represents the interests of more than 18,000 residents and 19,000 people who work in long-term care facilities, including assisted living centers and nursing homes.

Buck said the providers he represents are well-prepared for infection control.

Stitt said he has no plans to shut down child care centers. He said that with schools shut down, health care workers need access to child care.

“We have got to keep health care workers in the hospitals,” the governor said.

Stitt said he thanks Oklahomans for taking COVID-19 seriously.

“Over the next 15 days, we are really trying to flatten the curve on this outbreak,” he said.

Gallery: How is the world responding to the coronavirus outbreak?

Barbara Hoberock


Twitter: @bhoberock

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