State leaders say Oklahomans should wear masks to slow spread of COVID-19

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — As families prepare to spend the Fourth of July holiday weekend together, state leaders stressed the importance of wearing a mask in public gatherings.

“As we expected, since we reopened, our positive cases have been increasing,” Stitt said during a press conference on Tuesday. 

As he addressed Oklahomans amid the largest single day spike in COVID-19 cases, Stitt wore a mask for the first time. 

“I am strongly encouraging Oklahomans to follow this guidance and wear a mask,” he said. 

The latest spike in cases includes 585 new cases with 374 people in the hospital.  

Gov. Stitt has repeatedly said he will not mandate masks in Oklahoma, and doubled down on the statement when KFOR asked if he would reconsider that position if single-day spikes continue.

“No, I will not reconsider mandating masks. We believe in freedoms. I will not mandate that in the State of Oklahoma,” Stitt said. 

Something Stitt said the state will be doing though is launching a new color coded system to help citizens recognize the virus threat level in their area by providing more county-by-county data. 

It’s an idea that Democratic leaders also promoted last week during a press conference. 

 “So giving county-by-county guidance gives Oklahomans accurate pictures of the situation in their communities but also encourages them to be personally responsible for their actions, knowing their behaviors can help keep the county in the green,” he said.

Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye also spoke to Oklahomans, acknowledging a heightened interest in testing. 

“This allows us to inform active cases in order to quarantine, to conduct tracing efforts, to encourage additional testing and understand the rate and reason for community spread,” Frye said. 

Stitt also announced three CARES Act grants, totaling $50 million. 

The $50 million grants will support the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s three core components; expanding testing capacity, modernizing reporting systems, and expanding contact tracing and case investigation. 

Roughly $35 million will go toward expanding the public’s access to testing and expand public health labs’ ability to rapidly deliver results. 

Officials said at this funding level, OSDH will be able to independently sustain the state’s current testing goal of testing 100,000 individuals a month. 

The remaining $15 million will allow the health department to digitize and modernize data entry systems across county offices.

It will also support OSDH’s efforts to make contact tracing services more efficient through enhance technology platforms that have state-of-the-art security to protect individual’s personal information. 

Both Frye and Gov. Stitt warned Oklahomans to be cautious as they celebrate the 4th of July. 

“As we head into the 4th of July weekend, we need to continue to protect those who are the most vulnerable,” Stitt said. 

“As we celebrate our nation’s freedoms, we ask you to please wear a mask,” Frye said. 

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