Announces new saliva based testing and highlights focus on long-term care facilities
OKLAHOMA CITY (April 28, 2020)— Governor Kevin Stitt today joined Deputy Secretary of Science and Innovation Elizabeth Pollard, Deputy Secretary of Health and Mental Health Carter Kimble and Secretary of Health and Mental Health Jerome Loughridge to provide an update on the State’s response to COVID-19, announce new saliva based testing, and discuss efforts to protect Oklahomans in long term care facilities.
“Last Friday, many parts of our state started to safely and responsibly reopen,” began Gov. Stitt. “When we announced the Open Up and Recover Safely plan, we made it clear that we will make decisions based on the data here in our state. The data continues to show we can safely proceed with Phase 1 of our plan starting this Friday, May 1.”
The governor reiterated that, under current White House guidelines, Oklahoma continues to meet all necessary criteria to begin proceeding to a phased opening, including a downward trajectory of documented cases and the ability to treat all patients without crisis care.
“Our hospitalizations continue to decrease. When we announced our surge plan on April 10, we were expecting to need 1,100 hospital beds at the peak but prepared more than 4,600 beds to stay proactive. Because Oklahomans did such a good job of social distancing, working from home and making sacrifices to flatten the curve, our hospitalizations peaked at 560 back on March 30 and have gone down the entire month of April,” continued Gov. Stitt.
Deputy Secretary Pollard also announced the State will soon begin to analyze saliva test samples for the virus, which is a less-invasive method for mass testing that eliminates the need for swabs. Saliva samples are also easier to obtain, especially from long-term care residents who are in one of the highest risk groups for contracting the virus.
During the press conference, Deputy Secretary Kimble provided an update on the state’s efforts to mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19 among Oklahoma’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
On Monday, the Oklahoma National Guard and Oklahoma State Department of Health began to prepare and deliver shipments of PPE to long-term care facilities across the state, including masks, gloves, gowns, and face shields. The State has also issued stronger protocols for PPE usage, including mandatory face masks for all employees and residents in these facilities.
Kimble also addressed the State’s plan to test all 42,000 residents and staff in the 306 nursing facilities over the next 30 days using saliva testing. This will allow the State to remain proactive in preventing the spread of COVID among these vulnerable populations.
Finally, Kimble highlighted the work the Oklahoma National Guard has done to help disinfect the long-term care facilities across the state and the 11 regional teams that have been deployed to help with rapid response as needed.
To watch the full press conference, click here.
To access b-roll of the Oklahoma National Guard and Health Department preparing shipments of PPE for long-term care facilities, click here.
To access b-roll of the Oklahoma National Guard cleaning nursing homes and long-term care facilities, click here.