Most of the testing done by the Oklahoma State Department of Health is now done in the new Stillwater Public Health Laboratory, PHL Scientific Director Dr Jared Taylor said Thursday during a briefing.
Some tests, such as newborn screenings and microbiology tests, were contracted out or processed at other facilities while the lab was in the process of moving. COVID-19 tests continued to be performed at the Oklahoma City lab in June.
State officials have repeatedly said relocating such a facility in the midst of a pandemic is a difficult thing to do, but Taylor told reporters progress continues to be made in setting up the lab. .
Newborn screenings, which constitute the largest volume of testing for the state lab, are now being processed in Stillwater. He called this a “notable success” and said the Stillwater facility was now handling four more tests.
In addition to COVID-19 testing and sequencing, testing for sexually transmitted infections has been consolidated in Stillwater.
Tuberculosis testing is still contracted out, but Taylor said he expects them to return to PHL later this calendar year.
The rabies test is all that continues to be done at the old PHL facility in Oklahoma City, he said. This test is expected to be transferred to the Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine in the fall.
The relocation of the lab has been controversial, with members of the legislature questioning whether Gov. Kevin Stitt had the power to make the decision that took them by surprise when he announced it in October.
The facility has lost some staff who have not moved to Stillwater, but state officials have said automating the new lab means not all of these positions will need to be filled.
The move is part of the creation of the Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence, which opened in January.