OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Gov. Kevin Stitt’s executive order to close all nonessential business has been expanded to all 77 counties, and has been extended until April 30 in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Stitt announced amendments to his executive order during a press conference on Wednesday.
The closure applies to businesses that feature social gathering, including gyms, hair salons, bars and restaurants.
Stitt’s original executive order last week applied to nonessential businesses in counties with positive cases of COVID-19.
Stitt lauded restaurants for closing interior dining and moving exclusively to drive-thru and curbside service. He encouraged community members to continue patronizing restaurants.
“We need to continue to support our local restaurants,” Stitt said.
Later in the press conference, Stitt defended the decisions he’s made in response to the virus.
“[We] cannot shut down and bunker in place. It sounds good and makes a good soundbite, but it’s not practical,” he said.
Testing kit influx, testing restrictions lifted
Stitt also said that the state is receiving an influx of COVID-19 testing kits, and that the Oklahoma State Department of Health is lifting some testing restrictions.
“Anyone with symptoms or has been in contact with someone who has COVID needs to be tested this week,” Stitt said.
Symptoms must include a fever of 100.4, coughing and shortness of breath.
“Please begin testing all of those folks today,” Stitt said to medical officials across the state.
Commissioner of Health Gary Cox on Wednesday issued a letter notifying county health departments that all COVID-19 testing centers and providers are to loosen requirements for state residents to be tested.
“The State, to include the Oklahoma State Department of Health and Oklahoma State University, has supplies today to process 13,000 COVID-19 tests,” Cox stated in the letter. “Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, or those who have been in direct contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, may be tested this week.”
Stitt said there are 13,600 testing kits as of Wednesday. He also said Oklahoma State University is opening its labs for testing and can test up to 2,300 people each day.
Stitt said there are currently six drive-thru testing facilities in the state, including locations in Altus, Lawton and Woodward. He said 13 drive-thru testing facilities will be established by the end of the week. Go to https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov/drive-thru-testing for testing site locations.
COVID-19 tests can now be processed in-state, according to Stitt.
Social distancing emphasized
There are currently 719 positive COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma. So far, 30 people in the state have died from COVID-19, and 219 people are hospitalized because of the virus. There are 1,248 negative cases so far.
Medical officials anticipate the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma to peak in late April.
“This is the right time to take additional measures,” Stitt said.
Stitt repeatedly emphasized the importance of community members taking personal responsibility by staying home and constantly practicing social distancing when out of their home.
Stitt said these safe practices are essential throughout April to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“This is about personal responsibility and maintaining that 6-foot distance,” Stitt said. “Please, for the sake of your family, your friends, your neighbors, do the right thing and work with us on social distancing.”
Stitt also asked that community members refrain from going to grocery stores in groups.
“Grocery stores are not a place for families [at this time],” Stitt said.
Stitt said his Safer at Home plan for Oklahomans ages 65 and older and residents who have compromised immune systems to stay at home continues until April 30.
Coronavirus pandemic background, how to stay safe
The World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global pandemic on March 11.
The virus causes a respiratory infection, resulting in symptoms such as dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue and fever. Patients may also exhibit gastrointestinal distress or diarrhea, according to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
State officials urge Oklahomans to stay away from ill patients and to frequently wash their hands and practice social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet away from others. Officials also urge community members to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
The virus is mainly spread from person-to-person, and symptoms usually appear two to 14 days after exposure. Fever, cough and shortness of breath are the most common coronavirus symptoms.
If you do become sick, you are asked to stay away from others.