OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Department of Health is rolling out an optional school testing program Thursday, where districts can opt in and test students that agree to be tested.
“No doubt we have seen COVID in the schools. We knew we were going to see that,” said Keith Reed, the Oklahoma deputy commissioner of health. “This program will help monitor for COVID-19 infections and catch positive cases earlier to prevent widespread infections in schools.”
According to Reed, COVID cases continue to rise in schools. He said in early August, the state was seeing 17 to 18 percent of new cases falling under the 18 and under age group. As of last week, he said that number is closer to 30 percent.
“My reaction is sadness and disappointment,” he said.
The last several weeks have been spent sending out supplies and information for the program’s full rollout, according to Reed. As of last week, 40 out of 541 districts have opted in.
“We provide them a platform to order the test from us in the amount that they need, and then we send it to them,” Reed said.
The program is funded through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program can also allow schools to order personal protective equipment and apply for reimbursement for other supplies that prevent COVID-19. These items include things like hygiene supplies and air filtration systems.
“There’s many, many interventions throughout this pandemic that we would like to have occurred earlier,” Reed said. “While it didn’t happen before school started, we’re pleased to get it out now.”
While cases in schools may be rising, Reed said they’ve seen total cases trending downward. However, he said he doesn’t think the state is out of the woods yet.
“We are cautiously optimistic about the trends we are seeing in our case counts,” he said.
Reed said the downturn in reporting of cases over the Labor Day weekend could be to blame for the downward trend in cases. He said we will find out if that’s true in the coming days.
In some other news from the press conference, Oklahoma has surpassed the 4 million COVID-19 doses administered mark. The FDA is also meeting Friday to discuss booster shots.