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As COVID-19 cases rise, OSDH experiences 'difficulty' in variant testing

Posted at 11:34 PM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 07:36:53-04

TULSA, Okla. — Healthcare providers in the Tulsa area report seeing more COVID cases and hospitalizations and are concerned about the upward trend.

The Tulsa Health Department’s Executive Director, Dr. Bruce Dart, says the delta variant is in the state and spreading, and that it is a much more infectious variant.

Dr. Dart says his team will continue to convince people to protect themselves by getting vaccinated.

“It’s concerning that people think the pandemic is over,” he said.

The Oklahoma State Health Department’s latest 3-day average for the Tulsa region’s COVID hospitalizations is at 79, and 26 for ICU.

Those counts are not as high as during the peak of the pandemic, though.

Hillcrest Medical Center currently has 20 COVID patients, but medical providers there have seen three to four times higher than that.

“We did start to notice more people coming in with respiratory type symptoms, more people needing testing over the last few weeks,” Meredeth Maynard said, a Hillcrest registered nurse.

The uptick in patients made sense to her when OSDH confirmed the delta variant arrived in Oklahoma in June. The extent of its spread in Tulsa County is unknown right now.

Dr. Dart says the state is not doing as much variant testing because they have had difficulty receiving samples.

“We’ll work with the state and providers to hopefully get more providers to send them positive samples so we can find out the penetration of the delta variant in Tulsa County,” he said.

The blame for lack of variant testing is on a recent standstill in COVID testing.

"As the nation was generally seeing lower COVID-19 cases, fewer samples were being sent in from laboratories and hospitals for COVID sequencing. At this time it is not mandated for laboratories to send us their specimens to sequence. We are working with our hospital and laboratory partners to increase the number of specimens received to our PHL for sequencing, and encouraging them to send us 100% of positives for sequencing."
Jolianne Stone OSDH epidemiologist

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