Oklahoma 'Not Keeping Up' On COVID Testing, Expert Says

Apr 7, 2021

Oklahoma's COVID-19 case reporting and test positivity rate may not accurately reflect the current state of the pandemic due to a decline in the number of tests being performed, a leading expert said Wednesday.

"Our testing is coming down significantly," Dr. Jennifer Clark said during a weekly virtual presentation given as part of the OSU Project ECHO initiative, for which she serves as subject matter expert.

"We're not keeping up with this mitigation and, hopefully, suppression mindset, that, you know, widely testing and having a proactive testing strategy is extremely important," Clark said. 

Clark cited recent wastewater surveying done by a University of Oklahoma team that found more COVID-19 present in sewage than would be expected based on the official numbers being reported by the state health department.

"What we're seeing is that there's a discordant rise in the wastewater COVID-19 testing relative to the cases being reported. So we're not capturing our cases, is what it boils down to," Clark said. 

According to the most recent weekly report from the White House COVID-19 Response Team, dated Friday, April 2, but released Tuesday, testing has declined 15% week-over-week in the state. It also ranks Oklahoma the second-best state nationally for new cases per 100,000 residents over the last week -- a ranking that would be impacted by artificially low case counts.

Clark said she expects that Oklahoma is currently in a bit of a holding pattern, with the weeks-long decline in infection trends not likely to dip any further for the time being.

"I will go on record and say that I think we've hit our nadir. I think we are definitely in a plateauing stage by everything that we're seeing right now, so this is probably as low as we're going to go," Clark said, adding that Oklahoma may start seeing increases, as other states and nations have, as vaccinations decline and virus variants proliferate.