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COVID-19 info to know in Oklahoma

State Epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed speaks with Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Gary Cox, left, and Gov. Kevin Stitt regarding coronavirus. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]
State Epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed speaks with Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Gary Cox, left, and Gov. Kevin Stitt regarding coronavirus. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma, thank goodness, has thus far had only a small number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday that we haven’t seen “community spread” in Oklahoma. That’s encouraging.

Yet anxiety is understandably high as businesses, churches, schools and other entities change their routines to try to stem the spread. A particular concern centers on testing — whether to seek a test, and how. A Thursday news release from the Oklahoma State Department of Health provides important guidance.

The first is that county health departments — including those in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties — do not offer testing for COVID-19.

Anyone who develops symptoms — fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing — and has been in close contact with someone known to have COVID-19 or has recently traveled from an area where coronavirus is spreading should contact their doctor or call the COVID-19 hotline (877-215-8336) for recommendations.

The Health Department recommends calling ahead and discussing symptoms before going to a doctor’s office.

If you have a fever or cough and are older than 60, have a chronic medical condition or are pregnant — and thus at higher risk for complications for severe respiratory infections — call your health care provider and ask if you should be seen. The health care provider will consult with public health officials to determine if testing is warranted.

Spring break is under way. The Health Department says travelers who have close contact with someone with COVID-19 while away “should be prepared to stay home to self-monitor and avoid contact with others for up to 14 days after travel.”

While the government works to ramp up testing, the pace of which Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, expressed frustration with Thursday, the Health Department noted there are ways the public can help. Those include:

• Don’t go to an emergency room unless it’s essential. “Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs.”

• If you’re sick, stay home.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

• Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you’re older than 60 or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease or a weakened immune system.

• Face masks? They should be used only by those who show symptoms of COVID-19.

• Stay informed, because information about the coronavirus changes frequently. One excellent resource is the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov.

Oklahoma has weathered more than its share of crises. Personal precautions and cool heads will help us get through this one, too.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›

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