Rural counties warned there may be more COVID-19 cases than they realize

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As cases of COVID-19 are continuing to rise, some rural counties are still reporting no confirmed cases.

However, local health departments are warning that doesn’t mean the virus hasn’t made its way there.

“Right now, I’m confident that every county has a positive case,” said Brandie Combs, Oklahoma State Department of Health Regional Director.

Combs warns counties without a current positive case to not let their guard down.

“There is no reason for us to believe that any county is protected, or safe or going to miss the impact of this virus. The projections are very, very alarming,” Combs said.

Under Gov. Stitt’s recommendations, counties without reported positive cases of COVID-19 are operating with less restrictions. In these counties, non-essential businesses are still able to stay open.

Matt Lehenbauer, with Woodward County Emergency Management, says the county is already having to modify procedures when responding to emergency calls.

“Our big concern, once again, is I only have so many police officers, so many deputies, so many firefighters. And if they get a direct contact exposure, they go into quarantine for two weeks,” he said.

“And a department of say 15 police officers, like here in Woodward, we can’t afford to lose very many,” Lehenbauer added.

Some believe a lack of testing in rural areas is what’s keeping the positive numbers in those areas so low, or even nonexistent.

“We’ve been telling our community and our areas throughout rural Oklahoma, just assume it’s here,” Lehenbauer said.

Combs says even though testing is still limited in certain parts of the state, they’re working toward having more tests available.

“We all have to do our part to make sure we protect the entire population. There’s a level of individual responsibility. There’s a lot of individual responsibility with this. The government can’t policy this to death,” Combs said.

Combs says if you are having symptoms of COVID-19, call your local doctor and they should be able to guide you on whether or not you need testing.

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