What you need to know as Oklahoma’s COVID-19 reporting changes this week

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Tuesday’s COVID-19 report from the Oklahoma State Department of Health will look different.

Among several changes, the biggest will be the inclusion of positive rapid or antigen test results

News 4 spoke to local health experts about how you should analyze the changes in the numbers and what it means for stopping the spread in the community.

“When they see these numbers it may help them to understand that this virus is deadly and that it’s spreading through Oklahoma and we need to take it seriously,” said Dr. George Monks, President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

He’s applauding a move by the State Department of Health to include rapid antigen test results in its daily update.

He and other Oklahoma health experts like Dr. Dale Bratzler agree that the daily COVID-19 caseload will likely go up as many places, particularly urgent care centers and rural hospitals, count on these tests.

“I hope people don’t panic but the numbers are going to be a bit higher,” Bratzler said.

However, cases will not be added retroactively.

Bratzler says case numbers are typically lower after the weekend – and because of the Labor Day holiday, he doesn’t expect to see much of a change until Wednesday or later.

While it may not be a dramatic increase, he believes it’s still beneficial.

“I think now we’ll be able to do better planning because we know where new cases are occurring,” said Bratzler.

In addition, the state will soon be sending antigen testing machines to long-term care facilities and eventually schools – both places Monks says could really benefit from their efficiency.

“These tests are very good tests,” Monks said. “They’re very specific and they’re more widespread now.”

Getting these results faster and knowing the true caseload – doctors agree – is more important than ever as we head into the flu season.

“I think that people will see these larger case numbers perhaps and understand that this is a real virus, it’s not like the flu,” Monks said. 

Dr. Bratzler says the rapid tests often produce false negatives – so if you’re symptomatic and get a negative test – get tested again – or get a PCR test.

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