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Testing Continues At Three Local Sites


April 30, 2020

Countywide & Sun/Jennifer Pitts

LPN Melissa Butler tests Oatus Stone of Earlsboro at the drive thru clinic downtown Shawnee Thursday.

Just five tests. That's the number of COVID-19 tests reportedly administered by the Pottawatomie County Health Department in the past two weeks, according to estimates provided by a department official. With two other outside testing sites operational, an estimated 200 total tests were conducted countywide in the past two weeks, according to the most current information available from each site.

Fifteen new cases of the virus were confirmed during the same time, as reported through daily state updates, and the county's fourth fatality was reported. The total now stands at 43 confirmed coronavirus cases and four deaths.

On March 25, Pottawatomie County's first positive COVID-19 case was reported, exactly two weeks after NBA basket ball player Rudy Gobert's test came back positive just before tipoff at Chesapeake Arena. Less than two weeks later, the first county fatality was reported by state officials on April 6. Reports of two more local deaths followed by week's end, with a fourth reported a week later on April 18.

The first public testing location in Pottawatomie County opened for a drive-thru coronavirus test event on April 2, three weeks after Gobert's NBA season canceling results were realized in Oklahoma City and more than a week after the first Pottawatomie County resident tested positive. The drive-thru event was a joint effort by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and The Pottawatomie County Health Department.

In all, around 700 total tests have reportedly been administered in the county, according to all estimates provided, with around half of those tested being patients of Citizen Potawatomi Nation's Health Services. Proof of residency is not a requirement for testing at the two other sites, and an official confirmed some patients had driven long distances from other counties to be tested.

So far, the tribe has administered 360 tests in all, said CPN Public Information Officer Jennifer Bell on Tuesday. That number includes swabs from 36 participants of a drive-thru testing event held Friday, April 24.

Dr. Adam Vascellaro, chief medical officer of Citizen Potawatomi Nation Health Services, said, "COVID-19 testing via all the different modalities CPNHS has access to are really going great."

Not only has CPNHS reported the most tests conducted among the three test sites in Pottawatomie County, but the clinic also appears to have acquired the most testing supplies. CPNHS had 925 tests available as of Tuesday, Bell said.

The Indian Health Service National Supply Service Center provided CPNHS with ABBOTT ID NOW machines, Bell said, therefore, the ABBOTT ID NOW COVID-19 cartridges must also come from the company at this time.

"A huge thanks from myself to Oklahoma State University and support of our drive-thru testing and acute COVID-19 tent testing until our ABBOTT ID NOW Machine came online," Dr. Vascellaro said. "We are still maintaining our relationship with OSU for asymptomatic cases and potential future Drive-Thru testing. DLO is our tertiary plan and will become our immediate back-up when COVID-19 testing through OSU is no longer available."

Testing lag time in mid-March was seven to 14 days he said, but "is now down to five minutes (in-house) to two days (reference lab send out.)"

A total of eight CPNHS tests have come back positive for the coronavirus.

At the Pottawatomie County Health Department, it was estimated on April 14 that 214 tests had been performed, according to District Public Information Officer Sara King with the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH). When asked for an update Tuesday, King said, "Pott. (County) has done 219 tests as of April 24."

King said Tuesday that 83 tests were available as of last Monday.

Countywide & Sun/Jennifer Pitts

John Parrish gets a nasal swab test for COVID-19 Thursday in Downtown Shawnee from the Community Health Shawnee Family Medical Center team.

"We continue to offer curbside testing for free and without insurance," she said, adding proof of residency also is not required.

When someone calls to request an appointment for testing, King said the health department staff tries to schedule for the same or next day, depending on the availability of tests.

"If you have symptoms or have been exposed to a known positive, call the office for an appointment," she said.

At the Community Health Shawnee Family Medical Center, staff members have continued limited testing operations at times due to difficulties obtaining test kits. After a brief pause, the group has been able to return to testing on Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment. CEO Isabella Lawson said they had conducted 91 tests as of last Wednesday. On Thursday, another 18 noses were swabbed. Two of the 91 tests came back positive for the virus.


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