State Response: Testing Capacity up But Won't be Widespread, Ventilator Stock Insufficient

Mar 27, 2020

Oklahoma officials say they received a large enough supply of reagent this week to run 10,000 tests for COVID-19.
Credit Gov. Kevin Stitt

Oklahoma now has supplies to run 10,000 additional COVID-19 tests, but widespread testing is still a ways off.

State Secretary of Science and Innovation Doctor Kayse Shrum said testing hospitalized patients will be the top priority.

"Because it’s very important that we know the status of hospitalized patients so that we’re not burning through protective equipment for our front-line health care workers unnecessarily. We’re still going to be focused on testing those vulnerable populations and health care workers," said State Secretary of Science and Innovation Dr. Kayse Shrum.

The state is also continuing with targeted mobile testing sites to help identify infection patterns outside Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma had to "compete" with other states for testing supplies on the commercial market, according to Gov. Kevin Stitt. Shrum said the state got its new stock of testing reagent through an expansion of an existing contract OSU has with the manufacturer, Thermo Fisher Scientific.

While state officials are confident current testing capabilities are enough to guide their fight against COVID-19, they are not sure Oklahoma has enough ventilators to handle a spike in serious cases. State Secretary of Health Jerome Loughridge said the state has about 800 right now.

"We don’t believe that will necessarily, as they sit now, be sufficient, and, therefore, are moving quickly, both from the state side to source ventilation capacity for ICU beds but as well the supply chains of existing hospitals and other medical centers are already underway," Loughridge said.

Stitt said researchers are working with State Epidemiologist Aaron Wendelboe on a model to help officials make decisions. Officials did not give any more details Friday about plans to designate two hospitals in the state for COVID-19 patients.