'Just didn't feel right': Oklahoma's reported COVID-19 cases this week likely low
Oklahoma's commissioner of health on Wednesday said the State Department of Health has likely been under reporting new daily COVID-19 infections in recent days.
In a legislative budget hearing, Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye told state lawmakers the number of new daily COVID-19 infections reported in Oklahoma this week have been unusually low, likely due to a technical glitch at the health agency.
Employees at the State Department of Health are trying to figure out the exact problem, Frye told members of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Health.
"It just didn’t feel right to us that our numbers are dropping in the state when everyone we know is saying they’re testing positive," he said at the state Capitol. "So, we started asking questions and looking into it and found out that the last couple of days, one of the systems has not been functioning as it was supposed to."
Frye said he grew suspicious something was wrong when new daily cases dropped from nearly 4,000 per day last week to between 1,500 and 2,000 new daily cases this week.
The state's top health official said he thinks the number of new daily cases is decreasing in Oklahoma and across the nation, but not that drastically.
"Yesterday’s numbers were 1,558 cases," he said. "A few days ago, we were at 4,000. That doesn’t seem right. That’s why we started looking into it." The numbers will be corrected once the problem is identified.
Oklahoma's test positivity is 18.2%, down from roughly one in every four COVID-19 tests coming back positive, Frye said. For weeks, Oklahoma ranked as the worst state for test positivity, according to the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Johns Hopkins University, which takes a different tack to measuring test positivity, ranks Oklahoma's test positivity as 15th-highest nationwide.
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Hospitalizations have also declined from the state’s record high of 1,926 COVID patients hospitalized on Jan. 9. Frye attributed the decrease to the State Department of Health working with hospitals and the Oklahoma Hospital Association to speed up hospital discharges and making it easier for hospitals to transfer some recovering patients to alternate health care settings.