Gov. Stitt hoping to reopen state in phases next month if COVID-19 curve continues to flatten

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Governor Kevin Stitt says if Oklahoma’s COVID-19 curve continues to flatten, the state will slowly reopen beginning next month in phases.

On Friday, data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health shows that the state currently has 2,465 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

So far, officials say 136 Oklahoma patients have died and 541 people have been hospitalized. Currently, 325 patients are hospitalized.

1/3 of the deaths have come from long-term health facilities, like nursing homes.

Stitt held a press conference Friday morning at INTEGRIS Hospital near NW Expressway and Portland in Oklahoma City.

The Portland INTEGRIS hospital was announced as becoming a Level 2 surge facility.

Currently, Oklahoma is in “great shape,” Stitt said, with the number of ventilators and hospital beds available.

However, while heath officials don’t expect a surge to happen, Stitt says they are staying prepared.

If there is a surge in cases at hospitals across the state, the Portland Ave. hospital, along with OSU Medical Center in Tulsa, will become COVID-19 flex locations.

Normal operations at the INTEGRIS campus would continue if that happened, INTEGRIS’ CEO said.

Stitt says this week he spoke with President Donald Trump about the federal guidelines on reopening the states.

As for Oklahoma, the decision to reopen the state will be based on scientific data and advice from health professionals.

“Our cases are trending down and our curve is flattening,” said Stitt. “That is great news.”

Enhanced testing and contact tracing are two things that will help Oklahoma reopen, according to Stitt.

Two more mobile testing sites for COVID-19 were opened; one at the OSU Health Science Center and the other at OU Center for Health.

Oklahomans can call 211 for more information on the exact locations.

Health officials say they are making progress with antibody testing, which can tell an individual if they have been exposed to COVID-19.

IMMYs Labs in Norman has partnered with the state to conduct the testing, and is setting up partnerships across the state to expand testing.

Dr. Kayse Shrum says the test does not determine immunity, but may indicate a decreased risk, and that it is not a diagnostic tool.

According to Shrum, from April 2-9, approximately 1,000 antibody tests from 21 cities in 17 counties found the presence of antibodies at 1.4 percent, suggesting there was not widespread of infection of COVID-19 in the state.

As of April 16, 33,545 individuals were testing through PCR testing, meaning a nasal swab was conducted, with seven percent testing positive.

Health officials are also working to conduct contact tracing, meaning they are contacting people who have tested positive and then walk through everyone they have had contact with to find out where the virus may have spread.

Medical students at the University of Oklahoma and OSU will also now conduct contact tracing.

This week, Stitt deployed Oklahoma National Guard soldiers across the state to assist with the COVID-19 response.

Soldiers are helping at hospitals, mobile testing sites, distributing personal protective equipment and more.

Stitt says if the curve continues to flatten, the state will slowly reopen in phases beginning early next month.

Restaurants and churches are encouraged to come up with guidelines on what would be enforced should the reopening happening within the coming weeks, such as tables being further apart.

Stitt is hoping churches can reopen by May 3, but says it depends on what develops in the coming weeks.

Oklahomans are encouraged to continue social distancing and washing hands often.

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