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OSDH: Oklahoma may no longer be dead last in the nation for COVID variant sequencing

An illustration created at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conveys a likeness of the coronavirus that's behind the current pandemic.
An illustration created at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conveys a likeness of the coronavirus that's behind the current pandemic.

Updated 11/13 at 6:30 am

COVID cases have ticked up slightly in Oklahoma. Oklahoma State Department of Health Interim Commissioner Keith Reed said in a press conference Friday people should be aware.

“I think more than anything it serves as a reminder that we’re still in the middle of this pandemic. The pandemic is not over.”

Reed also gave an update on the Pandemic Center for Excellence, a project in Stillwater that cost $25 million in federal dollars.

The center is supposed to be identifying variants of the virus, but the CDC has ranked Oklahoma as last for variant identification.

Current data spanning a four week timeframe ending on 10/16 shows Oklahoma has sequenced 407 samples. That's more than just five states: Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Reed said the 407 number is not accurate.

“We are having an issue with reconciling some data."

Reed said there are “several thousand” additional samples that aren’t being reflected in the CDC number.

“That number you’re seeing for us is artificially low,” said Reed. “We are absolutely sequencing data. We recognize how important it is to maintain vigilance.”

Reed said OSDH is working to remedy the disparity with CDC.

The state also publishes variant information in its weekly epidemiological report. Reed said the report was a "more accurate" reflection of variant numbers, but that it's also in arrears.

"There is a lot of data to process when it comes to a pandemic response. A lot of resources have to go into that. We need to do what's best for Oklahoma and we need to do it in a way that we can sustain it," said Reed.

There have been over 2,000 new COVID cases in the state since Wednesday according to OSDH.

This article was updated to add the number of samples sequenced by Oklahoma and other states.