OKLAHOMA CITY — County mobile testing sites are seeing a surge in demand as the number of COVID-19 cases increases.
As of Monday, the state already had tested 90,000 Oklahomans at its nearly 80 county testing sites in June alone, said Donelle Harder, a state Department of Health spokeswoman.
The state tested 90,000 people in May, but that figure included 35,000 nursing home patients and residents, she said. June’s tally does not include that type of COVID-19 surveillance
“(That) means there’s tremendous interest in the testing pods across the state, which is very good,” Harder said. “We want Oklahomans to go out and get testing.”
However, she said the surge in demand is causing increased wait times to get tested, particularly in urban centers with larger populations. Testing appointments are required at many public sites.
She said the state is running upward of 8,000 tests a day at its public testing sites. That number doesn’t include Oklahomans who are using private providers for testing. Private tests are sent out of state for processing, which can delay the results, she said.
“We tend to promote the state testing locations because so far we have been able to deliver quicker results because we are keeping as many as we can in the state of Oklahoma,” she said.
Harder said the state is prioritizing notification of positive results. Those who test negative may have to wait a few more days for their findings.
As of Monday, more than 13,170 confirmed COVID-19 cases were confirmed statewide. Nearly 330 Oklahomans were hospitalized and 385 people have died.
LToya Knighten, an Oklahoma City-County Health Department spokeswoman, said demand is so high her department had to re-evaluate and expand its testing strategy.
Currently, the department offers just two hours of COVID-19 testing a day. Next week, they’ll expand COVID-19 testing availability to all day.
“We definitely had to re-evaluate our strategy because the demand was high,” Knighten said.
Their appointments fill up quickly.
“It’s expected because we know that COVID cases are increasing, so the more people that have COVID, the greater likelihood that others are being exposed,” she said.
She said the department is working with private testing sites like Walmart and CVS to expand its testing capacity as well. Individuals without insurance can be tested free at those sites because the federal government is supplementing testing costs, she said.
She advises the public to use those two companies if they can’t access a county location because they also rely on the nasal swab to diagnosis COVID. Nasal swabs are the most accurate test to detect COVID, she said.
Melissa Craft, an advanced practice nurse who is heading up a COVID-19 testing clinic through OU’s College of Nursing, said she's been running a free public testing clinic for two weeks in Oklahoma City. Another also opened in Tulsa.
They’re receiving as many as 350 calls a day from Oklahomans trying to schedule COVID-19 tests. They only have 72 available slots each day.
The month before they took over operating the clinic, there were just 150 calls a day.
“It’s booked solid,” Craft said.
She said about 20 people a day skip scheduled appointments with no notice. Patients should call and cancel if they can't make it because the testing site can then give away the slot to someone else who needs it.
OU's testing site uses nasal swabs, which take two or three days to obtain results, but are much more accurate than the rapid tests, she said.
Craft said it shouldn’t be business as usual for those awaiting testing or results.
“If you feel like you need to be tested, then you don’t resume your normal activities,” she said. “They really need to restrict their activities or at least wear a face mask.”