Oklahoma governor shutters more businesses as virus spreads

(Source: OK.gov)
(Source: OK.gov)
Published: Mar. 24, 2020 at 7:31 PM CDT
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday ordered non-essential businesses to shut down and directed elderly and medically vulnerable people to stay indoors until April 30 as the number of coronavirus cases in the state continued to climb.

MORE INFO: Essential businesses as described by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Stitt ordered businesses like bars, gyms, hair salons, movie theaters and massage and tattoo parlors to shut down for 21 days in all 19 counties where a positive test has been confirmed and said the order would expand to other counties when cases are detected. Restaurants in those counties can serve take-out food, but not have diners inside. He said his order would also prohibit groups of 10 people or more from gathering anywhere in the state.

March 24 coronavirus map
March 24 coronavirus map(OSDH)

“We need all Oklahomans to take this really, really seriously,” Stitt said. “If we take no measures at all, the cases will outstrip the capacity in our health care system.”

The number of cases climbed to 109 on Tuesday, but because of a shortage of testing supplies and few tests being administered, Stitt said he believes the actual number is closer to 500.

MORE: Full text of Governor Stitt’s emergency order

“They’re going to get into the thousands,” he warned.

Stitt’s latest order will end all visits to nursing homes and care facilities and suspend all elective surgeries, minor medical procedures and non-emergency dental procedures for 14 days in order to preserve dwindling supplies of protective equipment like gloves, masks and face shields.

He said the state is also working on a plan to designate two major hospitals in the state as exclusively for COVID-19 patients, but he said details were still being finalized.

A Cleveland County woman in her 60s became the third Oklahoman to die from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Stitt said Sunday the state will begin operating mobile testing sites in Kay, Pittsburg, Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, but the department said Tuesday those sites are not yet operational.

The vast majority of people who contract the virus recover within weeks. It causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but it can lead to more severe illness, including pneumonia, especially in older adults and people with preexisting health problems.

Oklahoma’s first death was a Tulsa County man in his 50s who died last week. The death of a second man, a Pawnee County man in his 50s, was reported Sunday.