OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As many state leaders urge Oklahomans to take precautions against the novel coronavirus, Democratic leaders in the Oklahoma House of Representatives are calling on the governor to take additional actions to slow the spread of the virus.
On Monday, the House Democratic Caucus sent a letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt, urging him to take stronger statewide action in the face of COVID-19.
In the letter, Democratic leaders asked Gov. Stitt to issue a statewide ban on non-essential gatherings larger than 10 people. They also asked him to close bars, gyms, fitness centers, and the indoor dining portion of restaurants.
“As you know, many municipal leaders in our state have taken action regarding business closures. However, this action has been far from universal. Without statewide action, COVID-19 will continue to spread within our communities,” the letter read.
On Sunday, Gov. Stitt said that the state’s current situation did not require statewide action at this time.
However, House Democrats say they strongly disagree.
“Our state’s positive cases are likely much higher than our official numbers because of our extreme shortage of test kits. Each of us has heard from many constituents-patients, nurses, and doctors- who were unable to access tests. The time to act is now, not when our official numbers increase. When our official numbers increase, it will likely be too late to ‘flatten the curve.’ We must be proactive in this situation instead of reactive,” the letter read.
Democrats say they know that businesses will suffer under a statewide ban. They say many businesses are already suffering under city bans, and the governor is simply delaying the inevitable.
“The policy of inaction is counter intuitive to your state goal of helping businesses innovate during this time of crisis. By not taking the necessary steps to ensure public safety, you are allowing businesses across the state to continue as usual. This decision will not only increase the damage COVID-19 will do to Oklahoma’s small businesses, but it will also increase the number of cases throughout Oklahoma,” the letter read.
Democrats say that trying to find a solution for businesses is important, but the lives and health of Oklahomans should be the top priority.
The leaders say they are urging Gov. Stitt to also make it easier for Oklahomans to access needed funds through the state’s unemployment fund. Also, they ask Gov. Stitt to enact a temporary moratorium on evictions and utility cutoffs.
“We must make it clear that no Oklahoman will go homeless or hungry due to this pandemic,” the letter read.
Last week, Gov. Stitt issued an executive order that encouraged Oklahomans to follow guidelines from the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.