The state said they are still testing 100-percent of the samples identified at the lab. They added that sequencing capacity is sufficient right now for state leaders to know where we stand in the pandemic.
“Our state is sequencing 100 percent of positive tests sent to the state’s public health lab to help monitor for and detect variants,” said Oklahoma interim commissioner of health Keith Reed during a COVID-19 update news conference Thursday.
However, doctors said they are disappointed in it and that the lag leaves them blindfolded.
“We are a little disappointed that we do have a pandemic center and our public health lab and we still have had a hard time getting testing done,” said Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.
The state of Oklahoma still ranks at the bottom of the barrel in the U.S. for the genomic sequencing of variants.
The omicron variant has not yet been found in Oklahoma but has been in 23 other states so far.
Reed said the popular at-home and rapid tests are not sequenced.
“These tests are not the PCR test that would be eligible for the variant sequencing,” Reed said. “We do see a decrease in the available testing that we can use for sequencing.”
Doctors like Clarke said the lag has left them in the dark.
“We are truly blind folded where we don’t have that information and we can’t make recommendations for our public,” Clarke said.
It’s a gap that’s in the thousands.
The State Department of Health admitted it’s due to sample limitations and the pandemic health lab having to upload data in a format that is required by the National Center for Biotechnology information parameters.
The state said they are working to “address these technical challenges and expect to see a more accurate number reflected in the coming weeks.”
“We are disappointed because we can’t make decisions without data,” Clarke said.
The state also said the CDC sequencing percentages are calculated based on all tests conducted since the beginning of the pandemic.
Oklahoma’s public health lab could not conduct genomic sequencing at the lab until early this year. They said a more accurate number can be found by adjusting the time frame of the tests to this year.