State COVID-19 Preparations: Waiting for Tests, Discussing National Guard Activation

Mar 18, 2020

Oklahoma state officials say preparations for COVID-19 are ongoing.

Health officials are working with hospitals to figure out what the state’s capacity is for a surge in critical cases. Gov. Kevin Stitt said he’s been in discussions with the Oklahoma National Guard about potentially activating them.

"In case we get to a point that we need to call them up to create more ICU beds, then they’re working up a plan for that. So, we can pull that lever if and when we need to pull it," Stitt said Tuesday.

There are also questions about the supply of test kits. The Oklahoma State Department of Health had around 350 as of Tuesday afternoon, and more tests are being done each day.

Health Commissioner Gary Cox said he’s been told by federal officials there are shortages of components of the kits.

"We are assured that the federal supply chain has been working around the clock to meet this need and that private labs and that access for our public lab as well should get some relief — we don’t have an exact date of that. — but sooner rather than later," Cox said Tuesday.

According to NPR, the White House is scrambling to help set up additional testing sites, and the U.S. Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on a package that includes resources for testing.

For now, the state health department is limiting tests to people who are 60 or older, who have compromised immune systems, or who have fever, cough and difficulty breathing and are in close contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19.