Gov. Stitt orders all non-essential businesses to close in counties affected by COVID-19

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As the cases of novel coronavirus continue to grow in Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt says he is taking additional measures to protect Oklahomans.

On Tuesday morning, officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health announced that 106 Oklahomans have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

So far, officials say three Oklahoma patients have died and 25 others have been hospitalized because of the virus. 

Officials say the latest death was a Cleveland County woman in her 60s.

According to health department data, the patients range in age from less than 1-year-old to 91-years-old. Two of the patients are children.

Hours after the data was released to the public, Gov. Kevin Stitt called a news conference to announce new social distance measures that are being implemented.

“We need all Oklahomans to take this really, really seriously,” Stitt said.

By Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Stitt said the state’s coronavirus cases stood at 109, three more than what was reported by the health department earlier in the day.

As part of the new restrictions, Stitt said that all non-essential businesses located in the counties affected by COVID-19 are being ordered to close at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25 until April 14.

Non-essential businesses are considered places with a ‘social gathering’ aspect, like bars, gyms, and massage parlors.

The current counties affected by the regulations are as follows:

  • Canadian – 4
  • Cleveland – 22
  • Custer – 1
  • Garvin – 2
  • Grady- 1
  • Jackson -1
  • Kay – 5
  • Logan-1
  • Mayes- 1
  • McClain -1
  • Muskogee -1
  • Noble -2
  • Oklahoma – 41
  • Pawnee – 4
  • Payne -3
  • Pontotoc – 1
  • Tulsa – 12
  • Wagoner -1
  • Washington – 2.

Stitt says that restaurants are being asked to remain open by offering takeout and delivery options, but not dine-in areas.

“By acting early, we are going to flatten that curve,” Stitt said.

Gov. Stitt says as COVID-19 cases spread to other counties around the state, those counties will then be included in the order.

The U.S. government defines essential personnel as:

  • Healthcare/ Public health
  • Law enforcement, Public Safety, First Responders
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Energy
  • Water and Wastewater
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Public Works
  • Communications and Information Technology
  • Community-based Government Operations and Essential Functions
  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Financial Services
  • Chemical
  • Defense Industrial Base.

To read more in-depth about the positions, visit the CISA site.

State leaders tell KFOR that they are working to expand the list, but that list has not been released yet. Governor Stitt’s office says the list will have to be expanded via executive order or memorandum.

Also, gatherings of 10 people or more will be restricted across the state.

At the same time, Stitt issued a ‘safer-at-home’ order, asking all vulnerable populations across the state to stay at home and only go out in public for the essentials until April 30. This includes adults over the age of 65 and vulnerable individuals with serious underlying medical conditions.

Stitt says he is also issuing a 14-day suspension of all elective surgeries, minor medical procedures, and non-emergency dental procedures in order to protect the state’s supply of personal protective equipment for medical workers. Visitation is also being suspended at all long-term care facilities until further notice.

“We are gonna get through this. We’ve been in tough times before and together we are going to come out of this stronger,” Stitt said.

State officials urge Oklahomans to stay away from ill patients and to frequently wash their hands. Also, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

At this point, Americans are urged to practice ‘social distancing’ by staying in their homes as much as possible and not going out into a crowd.

The virus is mainly spread from person-to-person, and symptoms usually appear two to 14 days after exposure. Officials stress that the most common symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

If you do become sick, you are asked to stay away from others. If you have been in an area where the coronavirus is known to be spreading or been around a COVID-19 patient and develop symptoms, you are asked to call your doctor ahead of time and warn them that you might have been exposed to the virus. That way, experts say, they have the ability to take extra precautions to protect staff and other patients.

Starbucks tables blocked off
Tables at an Oklahoma City Starbucks are blocked off to prevent diners from eating in. Officials say it is all in an attempt to force social distancing.

The novel coronavirus was first detected in China late last year and has since spread to locations across the globe, including the United States.

While the full extent of COVID-19 is not known yet, reported illnesses have ranged from extremely mild to severe, some resulting in death. Officials say that 80 to 85 percent of cases of COVID-19 have been mild, similar to a cold or the flu.

Older people and those with underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes are at a greater risk for a serious case.

“We thank Governor Stitt for announcing further measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Oklahoma. While these new executive orders are a step in the right direction, we will continue to advocate for a comprehensive and consistent statewide policy. Due to a shortage of tests, we do not have complete and accurate data on which counties currently have COVID-19 cases. To prevent further community transmission of COVID-19 we must take actions that are proactive, not reactive. Now is the time for all Oklahomans to come together to resolve this crisis. We will continue to work with Governor Stitt to get it done.”

Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Senate Democratic Leader

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