Oklahoma expected to move on to phase two of reopening plan on May 15

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Although businesses across the state have only been able to be open for a matter of days, state leaders say they are encouraged by the drop in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

On Wednesday, officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health announced that the state has recorded 4,201 positive COVID-19 cases.

So far, officials say 253 Oklahoma patients have died and 784 people have been hospitalized. Currently, 230 patients are hospitalized.

As testing has increased across the state, Oklahoma leaders say the number of positive cases has actually declined.

“The data continues to show that we are making great progress,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday.

In early April, experts said that around 10 percent of the COVID-19 tests given in Oklahoma came back positive.

Now, that percentage has dropped to 5.4 percent.

“Our situation in Oklahoma is significantly different than other states,” Stitt said.

Experts say that Oklahoma has the sixth lowest infection rate in the continental United States, and is the second lowest rate of any state with more than 2 million citizens.

Stitt said that Oklahomans have done a great job at flattening the curve, but that doesn’t mean that we can let our guard down.

Officials say that Oklahomans need to continue to practice social distancing, good hygiene, and healthy habits to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As a result, Stitt says he believes that Oklahoma will move into phase two of the reopening plan next weekend.

Phase One

Beginning April 24, the following businesses reopened for appointments only and must adhere to sanitation protocols:

  • Hair salons
  • Barbershops
  • Spas
  • Nail salons
  • Pet groomers
  • State parks and outdoor recreation should be reopened.

At the same time, officials say employers should create a plan to bring employees back to work in phases, close common areas and enforce social distancing protocols.

Also, businesses are encouraged to honor requests of personnel who are members of a vulnerable population for special accommodations.

Beginning May 1, the following businesses reopened:

  • Restaurants
  • Entertainment venues
  • Movie theaters
  • Sporting venues
  • Gyms
  • Places of worship
  • Tattoo parlors.

Officials say businesses should adhere social distancing and sanitation protocols. Places of worship should leave every other row or pew open and adhere to social distancing and sanitation guidelines.

Phase Two

Gov. Stitt says that he is watching for any early indicators to make sure that Oklahoma doesn’t experience a second peak in COVID-19 related cases.

At this point, Stitt says Oklahoma is on track to begin phase two on May 15.

Under phase two, officials say residents should avoid socializing in groups, but may consider resuming non-essential travel.

Organized sports activities can reopen and operate under proper social distancing and sanitation protocols.

Authorities say visits to senior care facilities and hospitals should still be prohibited, but funerals and weddings can resume under social distancing guidelines.

Also, bars can operate with diminished standing-room occupancy. Children’s nursery areas in places of worship can reopen as well.

Phase Three

Once hospital and incident rates remain at a manageable level statewide for 14 more days, phase three will apply.

At that time, employers can resume unrestricted staffing at worksites, and summer camps can open.

However, visits to senior care facilities and hospitals should still be prohibited.

coronavirus test
(Getty)

While many businesses are opening back up, many Oklahomans are still struggling with unemployment.

Secretary of Digital Transformation David Ostrowe says that they have received 417,000 unemployment insurance claims, which is well over what the system was designed to handle.

At this point, Ostrowe says they know the situation is frustrating but they working to process as many claims as possible.

At the same time, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is also dealing with an increase in the number of fraudulent claims.

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