By noon Thursday, 48 people had swab samples collected for testing at an Oklahoma State Department of Health mobile testing site on the south side of Ada. Those wishing to be tested began lining up on the Pontotoc Technology Center campus as early as 7:30 a.m.

The event is part of an effort by state leaders and public health officials to expand testing for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Oklahoma, with an emphasis on rural locations.

“We are all working together in the town and the county, that’s why we’re here today,” Chickasaw Nation Secretary of Health Dr. Charles Grim said at a press conference during the event. “We have county staff, Mercy staff and Chickasaw Department of Health staff helping to man this testing center.

“We also … have set up drive-thru testing centers at our campus here in Ada. We have one set up in Ardmore. We have one set up in Purcell. And, we’re going to be looking at setting one up in Tishomingo. All of these are in the areas where our facilities are located.”

Grim said the testing centers are open to all area residents who are symptomatic, without regard to tribal affiliation.

“You’ve heard Gov. Stitt talk about, now that we have more tests in the state that we really need to get out, especially in rural parts of the state to see what sort of prevalence there is in rural Oklahoma,” Grim said. “So, you see centers like this that are springing up in different counties, many supported by the State Department of Health and the county health departments.”

Ada City Manager Cody Holcomb thanked the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the Chickasaw Nation, Pontotoc County commissioners and area residents and community members for their support in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we’re positioned well to continue to deal with this as it moves forward,” Holcomb said. “Area Command is in place working through daily issues and scenarios to try to keep everyone as safe as we can. We had a council meeting last Monday where we had some changes to our Declaration of Emergency. We’ve been working … with (the media) to try to keep those communications as relevant and current as we can, and they will probably change. So, watch that. Pay attention to those declarations as they come out and, again, thank you for your patience as we work through this.”

Mercy Hospital Ada President Terence Farrell described the COVID-19 pandemic as a time of “unprecedented emergency, but also an unprecedented level of cooperation and collaboration.”

“(It’s been) all hands on deck,” Farrell said. “Everybody has been so helpful to one another. I know, here at Mercy, in being able to provide services to our community, sharing information, sharing supplies and resources. I feel that we are well-prepared to serve the needs of the community.”

Farrell said Mercy has taken steps to prepare for a surge — a spike in patients seeking treatment for COVID-19.

“We’ve been standing up our incident command for the last nine weeks in preparation, beefing up our supplies and running through drills with our staff so that we’ll be ready and capable. As of Monday, we’ll be standing up a forward triage area at the hospital to help better segregate the patient population who may (believe) they have the virus versus those who need to present at the hospital for other needs, and just taking every effort we can to protect the health and wellbeing of the community as well as our coworkers and staff.”

Oklahoma State Department of Health Public Health Specialist Lorraine Acevedo, who serves as the region’s Local Emergency Response Coordinator, said it could take up to 72 hours for the results of Thursday’s tests to be known.

“Anyone that tests positive in any of our (mobile testing sites) or in a hospital, (their results) will come out in those numbers,” Acevedo said. “If they are positive, the numbers will show in their county of residence. So, if we have residents from, let’s say Carter County, in this Pontotoc pod, those numbers, if they’re positive, will be (reported) out in their home county.

Oklahoma State Department of Health officials reported Thursday the Pontotoc County COVID-19 case count remained at nine. OSDH and local public health officials still expect that number to climb and are taking the necessary steps to prepare for an influx of new COVID-19 patients.

Thursday’s updated report from OSDH shows total confirmed cases in the state rose to 1.684, with 415 patients hospitalized and 80 reported deaths.

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, nearby Garvin County had 13 confirmed cases, Pottawatomie County had 24 confirmed cases and Seminole County had four confirmed cases. There were no confirmed cases in Coal, Hughes, Johnston or Murray counties.Contact Carl Lewis at 580-310-7520, or by email at clewis@theadanews.com.

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Carl Lewis was the editor of The Ada News from 2018 to 2020.

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