Okahoma State Department of Health

Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is urging Oklahomans who have chosen to attend large-scale gatherings in recent weeks to seek out testing for COVID-19, even if symptoms are not present.

As previously announced, OSDH encourages Oklahomans to seek COVID-19 testing both prior to attending large-scale gatherings and in the days following, and to wear a mask when physical distancing is a challenge. With active COVID-19 cases on the rise, OSDH is well positioned to support and partner with local government leaders and communities with free testing, resources, and local public health guidance.

“As expected, Oklahoma’s urban areas as well as a few communities around the state are experiencing a rise in active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to increased social activity and mobility. We continue to have more than 80 free testing locations across the state, and we need Oklahomans to get tested, even those without symptoms, so we can identify active cases and work together to minimize community spread,” said Interim Commissioner Lance Frye, MD. “The Stitt administration and the Legislature prioritized COVID-19 data transparency with our nationally-recognized online dashboard. These daily updates protect individuals’ personal information while equipping local leaders with the best data to make adjustments to local public health guidance if needed. Our agency is well resourced to pro-actively partner with and provide guidance to those changes.”

The OSDH continues to make COVID-19 data transparent and publicly available, pointing to evidence-based guidance that allows local leaders, business owners, communities and individuals to make adjustments, and frequently reassess protocols, based on the active presence of COVID-19 locally. OSDH is committed to partnering with stakeholders on crafting recommendations for populations to take proactive measures to keep themselves safe and minimize spread.

Governor Kevin Stitt first charged the agency with a mission to build its nationally recognized data dashboard, launched within a month of COVID-19 arriving in Oklahoma. At the expiration of the Catastrophic Emergency Declaration, Attorney General Mike Hunter determined the Legislature had made appropriate adjustments in State law to allow a substantial portion of the data reporting to continue.

“OSDH has also deployed strike teams across 11 regions in the State to support communities when a COVID-19 hot spot has been identified,” said Commissioner Frye. “These strike teams are comprised of public health professionals, testing experts, and epidemiologists who partner with local stakeholders to increase testing capacity and provide additional infrastructure support and guidance to minimize spread.”

While the rise in cases certainly calls for increased vigilance, the State’s emergency protective supplies and testing capacity remain strong. OSDH’s surge plan remains in place, and daily monitoring and communication continue should a need be identified to activate additional resources.

As to contact tracing, OSDH has hired over 700 full and part-time contact tracers since March 2020 to support these efforts. Additional contact tracers are being hired and trained to expand efforts.

“Personal responsibility remains key in protecting yourself and our local communities from COVID-19. We continue to encourage Oklahomans to consider wearing a mask, to routinely wash hands, and to use physical distancing measures, which are recommendations set forth by the CDC,” says Commissioner Frye, “As a society, we face a delicate balance of creating a new normal that takes into account public health, mental health, and economic risks. It will take all of us working together, as one State, to overcome the many challenges COVID-19 presents until there is a widely available vaccine.”

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E-mail lindsey.chastain@skiatookjournal.com

Managing Editor

Lindsey is the managing editor for the Skiatook Journal. She holds an M.A in English from the University of Central Oklahoma. Prior to the start of her news career in 2011, Renuard was a professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma.