Oklahoma health experts meet for roundtable discussion on coronavirus

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - Healthcare and political leaders teamed up in Oklahoma to learn more about a deadly virus that is spreading quickly across the globe.

Just one confirmed case in late 2019 has turned into more than 136,000 cases worldwide and nearly 5,000 deaths.

Congresswoman Kendra Horn, along with some of the state's top health experts, met to find ways to reduce the virus' impact on our state.

One of the biggest challenges is a shortage of supplies, from testing kits to medical masks, for doctors.

“We shouldn't be facing such a terrible shortage in the masks. It’s not like we were a thousand short in the nation. We're many millions short for what the experts expect we could need,” Dr. Gary Raskab, dean of the Hudson College of Public Health and Regents Professor of Epidemiology at Medicine at OU Health Sciences Center, said.

Another challenge is getting tested.

Oklahoma just received 500 more coronavirus tests, but officials fear many more will be needed.

“That was a theme that came through today, that came over and over and over from these physicians and hospitals and health department people. We should have had that testing available when other countries were way further ahead with how fast they were doing that,” Dr. Raskab said.

The state is just now following CDC guidelines allowing physicians to order testing instead of waiting for approval by the state epidemiologist.

"On the early stages of this, we had such little capacity for testing that we wanted to test the people we truly need to test at that time," Phil Maytubby, Director of Public Health Protection at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, said.

Now as dozens of test results are pending, the community and health officials hope to curb the spread of the disease through social distancing, good hygiene, and education.

One thing the health experts noted was that as of Friday morning, the three confirmed cases of coronavirus came from individuals that visited high-risk areas, both Italy and Seattle. That means it's not spreading through our community as of right now.

For more information, visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health's website.

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