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Oklahoma Rolling Out Free, Optional In-School COVID Testing Program

Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma state departments of health and education are rolling out optional but free in-school testing to screen for COVID-19.

Testing supplies are being covered by a federal grant. Deputy State Health Commissioner Keith Reed said as of last week, 40 of the state’s 500-plus districts had opted in, and kits are already being distributed, though he acknowledged school started a month ago.

"It's a pretty big logistical move to get this program pushed out. So, we wish we'd had this out earlier, but there's many, many interventions throughout this pandemic that we would like to have occurred earlier than the case in which they did," Reed said.

Parents also must opt in their students for testing. Reed said the goal is something closer to a surveillance testing program, letting schools find cases earlier and possibly stop a larger COVID outbreak.

"We ask them to do some random testing within their population. We don't expect that a school is going to be able to test everybody. And then also will allow them to test anybody that comes in that might be exhibiting some kind of symptoms or maybe they were a contact," Reed said.

Reed said he has no doubt COVID is spreading in schools. Just one-fourth of Oklahoma kids 12 to 17 years old have been vaccinated, according to state data. Kids under 12 are not currently eligible for vaccines.

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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