PONCA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – For the first time, four drive-thru COVID-19 test sites were set-up around the state, taking patients who were exhibiting symptoms based on a number of different factors.
“Running a temperature, major headache, shortness of breath,” said Steve Cremers of Ponca City.
Those are symptoms he’s been dealing with for the better part of a week, but because he’s only 35, he hasn’t sought medical attention. He’s taken health officials’ advice and self-quarantined.
“I just figured I was one of the young ones that wasn’t going to get hit very hard,” Cremers said,
but it’s a little bit worse than people think it is.”
It’s been difficult, so when he learned there would be testing available at the Ponca City RecPlex Wednesday, he took advantage.
The RecPlex and the McAllister Expo Center in Pittsburgh County are the two drive-through testing center set up through the Oklahoma State Health Department Wednesday.
The two sites had about 100 test kits each, available for people who came through and showed symptoms that included a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher and a cough or shortness of breath. Only one person per household could be tested, and state medical staff from surrounding counties were swabbing patients who remained inside their vehicles.
“They just send you through a maze of people, and they get your information and all that stuff,” Cremers said. “And they end up just sticking a thing up your nose, which wasn’t all that great, but, you know, it is what it is.”
There were also satellite test sites set-up in Tulsa County and Oklahoma County, but those were organized independently by each county’s health department, and the criteria was much more strict. Health officials in both counties said the locations of those sites will not be disclosed.
In Oklahoma County, Ken Johnson, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma City-County Health Department said patients had to not only show symptoms, but also either be at least 65 years old with a chronic disease, be a healthcare worker or be a cancer patient receiving treatment. All needed to be referred by a doctor.
When asked how patients would know if they were chosen or where to go, Johnson said, “There is a procedure in place,” but one the department is not sharing at this time in order to keep things streamlined. He also said there is a limited supply of test kits, but would not say how many were available for that site.
A spokesperson for the Tulsa City-County Health Department said local people showing symptoms were also being referred by doctors. She said their test site is only taking high-risk individuals who don’t have health insurance. Those patients were given an appointment and address for testing. She would not give a number for how many test kits were available, but said they are “extremely, extremely limited.”
State health officials said they'll be gathering information from these initial test sites to help determine how well they work and how best to proceed with similar future events.
In Ponca City, Cremers said he was pleased to have the opportunity to get tested when so many others showing symptoms over the past few weeks have been turned away statewide. Health officials at the site said patients can expect results in 48 to 72 hours, but he was told he may get a call Thursday.
In the meantime, he has a warning for people who may be underestimating the virus.
“If you’re feeling the symptoms stay home. The only thing I noticed about this compared to others is most of the times you get sick, it’s 48 hours and you’re feeling better, you’re on the downward slope,” Cremers said. “This is, the longer I go through it, the worst it gets. We’re like day five now, so hopefully here soon it’ll start getting better.”