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COVID-19 Testing Increasing in Rural Counties

Posted at 4:04 PM, Apr 10, 2020

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — As more COVID-19 test kits are becoming available across Oklahoma, the state’s rural counties are finally beginning to ramp up their testing. The result is a rising number of confirmed cases in many of those counties every day, some by double digits.

Muskogee County Liaison Doug Walton oversees eight counties in the area. He says 50 to 100 test kits per county became available this week, so health departments were able to begin drive-through testing and testing by appointment.

“Even though that’s just a small sample of the population in even those rural counties, having those when we didn’t have anything will still give us good data,“ Walton said.

A problem persists, though. Walton says the tests those counties get vary week to week, so there’s no telling how often they may be able to do extensive testing.

"The main limiting factor has just been the availability of the test kits and sample kits,” Walton said. "It’s just been this week that we have begun what I would consider extensive testing.”

Rural counties' confirmed cases are beginning to rise exponentially. In just two days, Osage and Washington County’s confirmed cases rose by 12 each - Osage County to 45 confirmed cases and Washington County to 57 confirmed cases.

A list of rising case numbers is below; the numbers are as of Friday, April 10. To see each county's daily total, click here.

Adair - 26 confirmed cases, 2 deaths
Cherokee - 18 confirmed cases, 1 death
Creek - 53 confirmed cases, 3 deaths
Delaware - 23 confirmed cases, 0 deaths
Mayes - 13 confirmed cases, 2 deaths
Muskogee - 21 confirmed cases, 2 deaths
Okmulgee - 13 confirmed cases, 0 deaths
Osage - 45 confirmed cases, 7 deaths
Pawnee - 26 confirmed cases, 2 deaths
Rogers - 23 confirmed cases, 0 deaths
Wagoner - 65 confirmed cases, 4 deaths
Washington - 57 confirmed cases, 2 deaths

"That’s really what we’re seeing with most of the numbers in the state, like across the country, the more testing we do the more we’re going to find,” Walton said.

To help rural hospitals treat COVID-19 patients, Governor Stitt’s Hospital Surge Plan will utilize 54 Telehealth units across the state. To keep those hospitals from overcrowding, Walton urges staying home and isolating, even after a positive COVID-19 test. However, he says go straight to the hospital if the symptoms become emergent.

Going forward, rural counties will have to plan out their testing week by week, depending on how many test kits they will get. The hope is the weekly number of test kits continues to rise, and testing becomes more widespread.

To learn about the availability of testing in your county, and to schedule a test, call your county's health department. Walton says the following counties have done testing this week.

Cherokee County Health Department in Tahlequah - 918-456-8826
McIntosh County Health Department in Eufaula - 918-689-7774
Muskogee County Health Department in Muskogee - 918-912-2160
Haskell County Health Department in Stigler - 918-697-3304
Okfuskee County Health Department in Okemah - 918-623-1800
Adair County Health Department in Stilwell, 918-696-7292
Okmulgee County Health Department in Okmulgee - 918-756-1883
Sequoyah County Health Department in Sallisaw - 918-775-6201

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