Most of the testing performed by the Oklahoma State Department of Health is now being done at the new public health lab facility in Stillwater, PHL Science Director Dr. Jared Taylor said Thursday in a press briefing.
Some tests, such as newborn screenings and microbiology tests, were being outsourced or processed at other facilities while the lab was in the process of moving. COVID-19 testing continued to be done at the lab in Oklahoma City in June.
State officials have repeatedly said moving such a facility in the middle of a pandemic is a difficult thing to do, but Taylor told reporters progress continues to be made on setting up the lab.
Newborn screenings, which make up the largest volume of testing for the state lab, are now being handled in Stillwater. He called that a “notable success” and said the Stillwater facility is now handling four more tests.
In addition to COVID-19 testing and sequencing, Sexually Transmitted Infection testing has been consolidated in Stillwater.
Tuberculosis testing is still being outsourced but Taylor said he expects it to return to the PHL later this calendar year.
Rabies testing is all that continues to be processed at the old PHL facility in Oklahoma City, he said. That test is expected to be moved to the Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in the fall.
The lab’s relocation has been controversial, with members of the legislature questioning whether Gov. Kevin Stitt had the authority to make the decision that took them by surprise when he announced it in October.
The facility lost some staff members who didn’t make the move to Stillwater but state officials have said automation at the new lab means not all of those 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.