Digital COVID tests, at-home contact tracing, and a dwindling virus

by Jordan Green

Oklahomans who get tested for the coronavirus can now receive their results via text message and conduct their own contract tracing. Oklahoma State Department of Health officials announced Oct. 27 that the agency is adopting a new coronavirus case investigation system.

It will allow people who take a coronavirus test to electronically receive their results and list anyone with whom they came in contact during the infection period.

“We are empowering Oklahoma citizens with the tools, information and resources they need to quickly and efficiently know whether or not they have a COVID-19 infection, and take personal responsibility for any necessary measures to ensure the safety of those around them through a self-directed, automated case investigation,” Keith Reed, the state’s interim commissioner of health, said in a news release.

“We’re utilizing technology to transition into a new system that can be sustained long-term as case numbers continue to drop to drop and COVID-19 surveillance moves from pandemic response to an endemic environment.”

To use the new system, people can provide their cell phone numbers when they take a COVID-19 test. Later, they’ll receive a text message that will link them to a state webpage where they can find their results and perform contact tracing.

The news comes as COVID-19 cases continue to drop statewide, and as the number of people who have been vaccinated against the virus rises. State officials reported that 1,965,613 Oklahomans, about 59.1% of all who are eligible, were fully vaccinated as of Oct. 25. More than 2.3 million Oklahomans have had at least one dose of the shot, and more than 159,000 people have taken a “booster” dose, officials said.

Health officials say booster doses will help protect older adults and people who have underlying health conditions. State officials report that 52.5% of all Kay County residents over the age of 12 had taken at least one dose of the vaccine, and 44.9% were fully vaccinated. Vaccines aren’t yet approved for people under the age of 12. The state health department reported Oct. 27 that the state has had 641,051 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, 7,865 of which are active. Statewide, 10,710 people have died from the virus. More than 36,000 Oklahomans have been hospitalized since the pandemic began. Kay County has had 7,280 cases of the virus, 166 of which are active.

Officials said 6,950 Kay County residents have recovered from the virus, and 164 have died from it. Blackwell has had 937 cases, with 889 recoveries and 39 deaths. Braman has had 46 cases, with 43 recoveries and two deaths. Kaw City has had 104 cases, with 97 recoveries and three deaths. Newkirk has had 604 cases, with 576 recoveries and nine deaths. Ponca City has had 5,271 cases, with 5,045 recoveries and 105 deaths. Tonkawa has had 528 cases, with 493 recoveries and 18 deaths.

The state health department does not provide data on coronavirus cases in some of the state’s smallest towns, including Nardin in Kay County. Stillwater Medical Center – Blackwell reported Oct. 27 that all six of its hospital beds were in use. Five were occupied by patients without COVID-19. Vaccinations are available for free at some pharmacies and stores across the county, among other locations.

For more information on vaccinations, or to schedule a vaccine appointment, visit covid19/vaccine-information/vaccine-faqs.html. The United States has had more than 45 million coronavirus cases and more than 745,000 deaths