Oklahoma Adding Antigen Test Positives, Making Other COVID Data Changes

Sep 4, 2020

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is overhauling its online coronavirus dashboard, starting to count antigen test positives in case totals and partnering with Google to improve data collection.

Oklahoma is changing the way it calculates coronavirus data.

State officials announced several changes to Oklahoma’s coronavirus data policies on Friday.

Health officials have always tracked results from the tests known as antigen or rapid tests. But those tests were considered less reliable than the standard PCR tests, the nose swab. Positive antigen tests have not been included in total cases.

Officials said Friday those tests have improved, and daily cases will include antigen positives starting next week.

Officials are also partnering with Google to modernize how they collect data from health providers. Under the current system, the state was getting reports through several channels, including fax updates and phone calls.

Lastly, the data dashboard available to the public on the state’s coronavirus website will get a redesign, which also launches Tuesday.

The state’s data changes are being well received. OU Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler said he applauds them for including positive antigen tests in case counts.

"We’ve been calling for it for some time. We know that a lot of people do go to an urgent care center or another place that’s doing rapid antigen testing, and when those rapid antigen tests come back positive, that person has COVID-19," Bratzler said. "And I know the health department has been following up with some of those patients by use of contact tracing and other things, but I think one of the big concerns that we’ve had is they’re not getting counted in the daily case numbers and that makes it harder to know the impact and spread of the disease in your local community."

Counting positive antigen tests will likely mean an increase in reported cases.

In a statement, the Oklahoma State Medical Association said counting positive antigen tests will help slow outbreaks in schools, colleges and nursing homes. OSMA also said the state’s partnership with Google will improve the quality and accuracy of reporting.