OKLAHOMA CITY — Governor Kevin Stitt last week joined Commissioner of Health Gary Cox, State Senator George Young and President of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma Dr. Joseph Cunningham to provide an update on the State’s plan to increase testing and contact tracing and to announce a partnership between the Oklahoma State Health Department (OSDH) and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma to ensure underserved areas have access to COVID-19 testing.
“As we test more people, we will continue to find new cases, but our infection rate is going down,” Stitt said. “Of all the people we have tested, just 5.67 percent are coming back positive. This means for every 1,000 tests we do, 943 come back negative and 57 come back positive. With more testing, and by expanding our contact tracing, we will be able to slow the spread of this virus and keep Oklahomans safe and healthy as we begin a measured re-opening of our State.”
As outlined in the OURS plan, public health officials have provided guidance for various industries on how to reopen safely, which can be found here: https://www.okcommerce.gov/covid19/ours-plan/.
OSDH also provided an update on how the agency is setting metrics to increase testing to collect and process 90,000 specimens by the end of May and to increase its tracing team from 150 to 650 trained tracers in the coming weeks. This expansion will take place in partnership with the National Guard and Oklahoma’s medical institutions and will allow the agency to maintain its 48-hour turnaround on investigating positive cases and contacting individuals and facilities on guidance for quarantining and sanitation.
“The Health Department’s expanded efforts on COVID-19 testing and contact tracing are absolutely essential to reopening our state,” Commissioner Cox said. “Governor Stitt called for all COVID-19 testing locations to expand access to all Oklahomans – even those with no symptoms. This is critically important, and OSDH and our partners are prepared to handle this increase.”
Over the past eight weeks, OSDH has led the opening of 80 drive thru testing locations and doubled week after week the State’s testing capacity. Those locations can be found at: https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov/drive-thru-testing
“The State’s current plan to provide testing to all nursing home residents will help us reach our goal, but we urge the public to please go to our drive-thru locations across the State and get tested. Your participation will allow us to expand our knowledge on the level of community spread and the number of people who are asymptomatic,” continued Cox.
Governor Stitt, Commissioner Cox, Senator Young and Dr. Cunningham also announced that OSDH, the Oklahoma City County Health Department and the Tulsa Health Department are launching a partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma to provide Caring Vans in underserved communities in order to increase access to COVID-19 testing and support those who are without access to transportation.
Blue Cross Blue Shield oversees a fleet of nine Caring Vans that travel the state providing immunizations and screenings. Through the new partnership, these mobile units will provide COVID-19 testing to underserved families where they are, eliminating barriers that include cost, transportation and limited clinic hours.
“Public-private partnerships are so important for our state. Vice President Pence talks about not just a ‘Whole of Government’ approach, but a ‘Whole of America’ approach. I am proud of companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma for answering the call and joining us in a ‘Whole of Oklahoma’ response,” Stitt said.