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Oklahoma Must Ration 'Critically Low' COVID-19 Tests

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Oklahoma Health Department can run fewer than 100 more tests for COVID-19 before they're out of kits.

"Due to the critical low supply we have, the state is going to have to reserve until further notice tests for only vulnerable populations," said Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Tests will be reserved for people who have fever, cough and shortness of breath and who fall into a high-risk category: the elderly; people who are hospitalized with severe illness; people with heart, lung or immune system conditions; long-term care facility residents and workers; or health care workers.

One of Oklahoma's 12 new cases reported Wednesday was a nursing home resident. 

State Epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed said in the early stages of the pandemic, there was a national shortage of test kits from the federal government.

"Now we're dealing with an international shortage of the actual reagents. This is a liquid that is utilized to manually extract the virus from a patient's specimen, which is why we have to go ahead and put in these specific priority groups," Burnsed said.

Burnsed said Oklahoma has requested the maximum amount from the federal government, enough for 500 tests, but so has every other state. So far, there’s no shipment date.

"We are hopeful that it would be soon. Even if it is just not even our max order, just something to assure that we can continue to respond to conduct investigations, but right now, no clear date," Burnsed said.

Burnsed said there are few manufacturers of the reagents, and states and private labs are going to the same supply chain for them.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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