More than 66,000 Oklahomans have active cases of COVID-19, according to the State Department of Health, but those numbers don't include any infections detected through home testing or the thousands of people waiting for results. They say the actual number is higher because thousands of people are waiting for results. The bottleneck at the moment is testing, with hospitals still urging people to not come into the ER unless they're critically ill.
Tulsa County's busiest test site, the Saint Francis Urgent Care in Broken Arrow, is testing about 800 people each day. A long line of cars stretches through the nearby neighborhood, and at the end of the line, a competing testing company is there recruiting customers for a site a few miles away at 101st and Sheridan. "It's a lot quicker and more convenient than waiting in line for 4 to 5 hours," said Lee Davis, with Cedar creek Labs.
The Tulsa Health Department recognizes the wait for testing and says they have ramped up their test capacity about as much as they can. They are also busy vaccinating people to prevent serious illness. They continue to recommend testing for people with symptoms, or for immuno-compromised people who have been exposed.
"This makes a lot of people very very ill," said Dr. Bruce Dart, the Director of Tulsa Health. "That's evidenced by our numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths as well. Mild is a relative term and nobody wants to find out if they'll have a particularly mild case or not." Dart calls the current rate of infection a worst-case scenario, with each contagious person infecting as many as 10 other people. Dart said current wastewater sampling in Tulsa shows 95% of the infections are the more contagious Omicron variant.
There's not a wait, or a cost, for the vaccine that is preventing almost all serious illnesses in those who take it and have current boosters. "The Covid vaccine supplies are adequate. We have a lot in the County and people should be able to get it" said Ellen Niemitolo, the Clinical Director for Tulsa Health.
Tulsa's Mayor said hospitals are burdened now with people showing up there for testing, when they don't require acute care, and asked people to seek out testing elsewhere, even though it can be hard to find and require a wait.
"People have to get vaccinated if they're not already," said Bynum. "Unless you have a medical reason to not get vaccinated, there really is no excuse at this point."
Home tests are hard to find in local pharmacies. The Health Department takes appointments online for both the vaccine and testing. The 2-1-1 referral system can also direct people into testing, and several private testing companies have opened pop-up sites throughout Tulsa.