Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt took a tougher stance on social distancing amid the spread of COVID-19 in the state during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
"I cannot emphasize enough the need for us to continue with the social distancing and making sure that we don't get into groups of 10 or more," Stitt said. "We need all Oklahomans to take this really, really seriously."
Stitt announced several new executive orders and recommendations including the following:
- The 'Safer at Home' Executive Order - This is an order that tells Oklahoma's most vulnerable populations to stay at home until April 30. The Governor said these populations are still allowed to go to grocery stores and pharmacies and still run life-sustaining errands. The most vulnerable populations includes the elderly and those with an autoimmune disorders, but specific age ranges or conditions were not mentioned.
- Order Limiting Gatherings - The Governor is issuing an executive order following CDC guidelines to limit gatherings statewide to 10 people or fewer.
- Closure of nonessential business in 19 counties - This executive order affects businesses in the 19 counties that have at least one verified case of COVID-19. In the affected counties, all non-essential businesses will be closed until April 14. This order will include additional counties if more confirmed cases are discovered outside the current 19 counties. Stitt did say that restaurants can continue with curbside to-go and deliveries in those counties. He has also since pointed to federal guidelines on what is and what is not an essential business. That list can be found here.
- Suspension of elective medical and dental procedures - All elective medical and non-emergency dental surgeries will be suspended for 14 days to conserve personal protective equipment to respond to COVID-19.
- Suspension of visitation to nursing homes and long-term care facilities, until further notice.
These orders are a signficant departure from Stitt's tone on Sunday night and Monday when he said that Oklahoma was not yet in a place to take drastic measures to stop the Coronavirus. When asked about what changed his mind, the Governor said he had been looking at the modeling data presented by his task force that shows when a spike may occur that would overwhelm the state's hospitals.
The task force also announced that in the coming days, two hospitals would be designated as the COVID-19 response facilities to keep potentially infected populations separate from those with other medical needs.
Commercial medical laboratories conducting testing are now required to report suspected or confirmed cases of the Coronavirus to the Oklahoma State Deparment of Health.
Kayse Shrum, Oklahoma's Secretary of Science and Innovation, said that the state is scaling up to the projection of being able to conduct 10,000 weekly tests. She said supplies are currently being shipped, and they are moving toward that goal. Currently, the state has enough supplies to conduct 2,000 to 2,800 tests in collaboration with commercial labs, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.
Clarification was made about the supply of personal protective equipment for medical professionals. Secretary of Health and Human Services Jerome Loughridge said that while the supply for the state is enough to last just over nine days, rural hospitals have far fewer resources. Loughridge said the state's task force is evaluating how to get these hospitals necessary supplies.
Also on Tuesday, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt announced he is amending an executive order that mirrors Gov. Stitt's orders. Holt called COVID-19 the "greatest threat to Oklahoma City's public health in the last half century." The city of Oklahoma City will provide more information here.
Norman Mayor Breea Clark also announced on Tuesday that the city of Norman will be under a stay-at-home order for the next three weeks, which includes the closure of all non-essential businesses. More details on that order can be found here.
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