‘Something is wrong at the Oklahoma State Health Department’: Records show OK falling behind on Covid variant testing, OSDH denies it

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'Something is wrong at the Oklahoma State Health Department': Records show OK falling behind on Covid variant testing, OSDH denies it

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Every state has been testing Covid-19 variants since the pandemic began to allow for a better understanding of what physicians are dealing with and how to treat it, but documents show a delay in the CDC receiving variant samples from Oklahoma.

Former Oklahoma State Medical Association President, Dr. George Monks, M.D. said without up-to-date data, it becomes of zero use to those in the medical field.

“We’re all tired of Covid. We’d like it to be in the rear view mirror, but we’ve got to get the data right because it’s so important,” added Dr. Monks.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health released their latest Covid data Thursday morning.

The report shows 4,502 new cases between Christmas and New Years Eve.

Those cases kick Oklahoma’s total Covid cases reported to 1,255,673.

In that mix of cases is now the new Omicron variant also known as XBB1.5.

However, the Health Department’s latest report doesn’t paint a clear picture of how many infections this variant is responsible for.

“The OSDH PHL has identified a handful of XBB, including XBB.1.5, a subvariant of Omicron,” the OSDH’s report said.

Because the sequences are considered as subvariants monitored rather than subvariants of concern, those sequences are included in the report numbers under the broad Omicron variant category.

The CDC is projecting 40% of current Covid cases stem from XBB1.5.

“We’re not doing enough testing, and so that’s a real concern,” added Dr. Monks.

The CDC shows Oklahoma has a total variant sequencing rate of 2.17% which puts the state in the bottom 10 of variant sharing.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports Oklahoma’s last shared sample from December 6.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information chart showing when variant samples were shared with the CDC.

“There can be a gap of a couple weeks between the date of specimen collection through clinics/hospitals and the date of uploading the sequencing results. This is to be expected due to the process of clinics/hospitals performing COVID-19 testing, reporting a positive result, and then selecting 10 percent of their positive specimens to send to the PHL for sequencing. Typically, clinics/hospitals send us their 10 percent of positive specimens on a weekly or monthly basis. COVID sequencing testing is currently performed in PHL on a weekly basis,” explained OSDH’s Public Information Officer, Erica Rankin-Riley.

News 4 attached two charts claiming Oklahoma is behind in shared testing, but Rankin-Riley said, “As of today [Thursday afternoon], PHL {Public Health Lab] is up to date with all COVID sequencing testing and data uploading.”

Monks said that’s not what shows up on his end though.

“Something is wrong at the Oklahoma State Health Department and the State Public Health Lab and we’ve got to address it. Let’s fix it,” said Monks.

Monks is calling on the Health Department to be more transparent with the scientific community and the public.

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