OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As COVID-19 numbers continue to surge throughout the state, health officials and employers are encouraging people to get tested, but getting it done isn’t always easy, quick, or cheap.
Local health officials said over the past two weeks, they’ve seen a major uptick in the number of people seeking out COVID-19 tests.
The week leading up to the Fourth of July holiday, it was almost impossible to schedule a test.
Now, going through Walmart-run “Doineedacovid19test.com,” the first available appointment is Monday July 13. (An Oklahoma City County Health Department officials said that the week ahead of the holiday, Walmart was renegotiating its contract with the Federal government, so those testing sites were closed.)
At CVS, after answering the questionnaire regarding possible symptoms, and whether you’ve been referred to get a test, you may not meet the criteria to qualify for a test at one of its Minute Clinic locations at all.
The OCCHD website said they could get someone in next-day, but that the results take seven to ten business days to come back.
That’s more than half the time a person is told to quarantine if they find out they’re sick.
But LToya Knighten, the Oklahoma City County Health Department chief of government affairs said she estimates the actual time for a result is 48 to 72 hours.
It depends on how many samples the limited number of testing labs need to get through.
“We are sending right now upwards of 275 samples just from our two locations and that’s not counting all the other organizations that are also sampling,” Knighten said. “When the sample is taken, how many samples are being run through that particular lab. There are multiple labs across the state that are running multiple samples for multiple organizations so that’s where you find the varying time frames in when those results are returned.”
Knighten said the OCCHD closed two of its clinic locations to devote those facilities and staff members to increased COVID-19 testing.
But whether it’s 3 days or 10 days, some people can’t afford to self-quarantine because their employer won’t let them without a confirmed positive.
Robert Kimberling takes care of his elderly family members. He was exposed to COVID-19 by a loved one, so he got tested, and the results took eight days to come back. During that time, he was afraid he might infect his family.
“It’s pretty nerve-wracking to be waiting for a test result to come back, you know you can’t leave them alone all the time,” Kimberling said.
Luckily, he tested negative, but the experience left him frustrated.
“If we’re going to test people then they need to have the results quickly,” he said.
There is also the option of getting a rapid test at one of the urgent care locations that offer it, but there is skepticism surrounding its accuracy, and questions about its cost.
A KFOR reporter who got the rapid test at First Med Urgent Care was told after she took the test that even with insurance, the cost would be $170. A few days later, the billing manager said the cost was $50 instead. Another News 4 employee with the same insurance was charged $86, and another with different insurance was charged $88.
As for its accuracy, Knighten said research on the test is inconclusive. That’s why she said the OCCHD uses the PCS nasal swab which has the highest accuracy of the current methodologies.
Knighten said the OCCHD is in talks with the OMRF and OU Med to possibly expand lab testing capacity. She said the department has also put a request for more lab capacity in a CARES Act proposal sent to Oklahoma City.
In the meantime, she said the wait times associated with the test highlight the need for continued precautions, like wearing a mask and remaining six feet from people.
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