OKLAHOMA CITY – Republican Governor Kevin Stitt issued a shelter-in-place order for the state’s most vulnerable residents and those with comprised immune system during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
The policies are the state’s latest effort to fight the spread of the Covid-19 virus. As of 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon state officials said 109 Oklahomans had tested positive for the virus, while 735 had tested negative. Twenty-five Oklahomans remain hospitalized and three residents have died because of the virus.
Data from the World Health Organization shows that globally, 372,757 people have been infected by the virus. Of that number 16,231 have died.
While Oklahoma, Cleveland, and Tulsa counties have reported the highest number of residents who are infected with the virus, State Health Department Spokesman Cody McDonnell said no cases of infection have been reported in Comanche County.
Stitt said he expected the number of those infected with the virus to increase. “We know that as we continue to increase testing, the number of confirmed cases will increase,” he said. “Right now, the number of cases is probably in the 500s.”
Stitt, who had previously resisted efforts to lock down the state, issued the order after the Tulsa World reported that several groups of health care professionals and elderly advocacy organizations sent the governor a letter asking the governor to adopt a shelter in place strategy and order non-essential businesses closed.
“We are requiring that all vulnerable populations stay at home until April 30,” the governor said. Stitt said the order did not apply to trips to the grocery store or pharmacy.
“We need all Oklahomans to take this very seriously,” he said. “I cannot emphasize the need enough for us to continue social distancing, so we don’t get in groups of 10 or more.”.
Stitt also issued an order prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more and announced the suspension of all elective surgeries, minor medical procedures and non-emergency dental procedures for 14 days.
The governor ordered all non-essential businesses in the 19 counties with a confirmed case of the coronavirus to close by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday and to remain closed for 21 days. An example of a non-essential business, he said, would be a hair salon, a gym or a massage parlor.
In addition to efforts to limit the spread of the virus, Stitt said the state was moving quickly to set up two hospitals which would focus on Covid-19. Kayse Shrum, the president of the OSU Center for Health Services and Stitt’s cabinet secretary for Science and Innovation, said officials were still in the planning stages for the facilities.
“We’re looking a designating two hospitals to see patients. Those hospitals would have the heavy loads, the ventilators and the personal protective equipment and the expertise,” she said. “We can provide the support those hospitals need and make them a priority.”