OK health expert says restaurant restrictions, state worker mask mandates are good, but not enough

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Starting this week, state workers and restaurants will see new mitigation measures in response to the COVID-19 case surge after Governor Kevin Stitt signed an executive order Monday, but a lead Oklahoma health expert said without more mitigation efforts, the next few weeks will see the surge worsen in the state.

Beginning Tuesday, all state workers, about 33,000, will be required to wear masks when in public areas or around others inside state buildings. Visitors in state buildings will also be required to wear masks.

Starting Thursday, restaurants and bars will be required to close every night by 11 p.m.

“We need to slow the spread of this virus,” Gov. Stitt said.  “Data shows that social distancing is harder to maintain as it gets later at night, especially in bars.”

Tables will also be required to be distanced 6-feet apart, or if that’s not possible, separated by dividers.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force recommended the state limit restaurant capacity to 50-percent, but that’s not a move the governor’s office will take now.

“Every building is different sizes so we knew that 6 feet apart was the right thing to do, that’s social distance so we chose to go there,” Gov. Stitt said.

The measures don’t have a set expiration date, but executive orders need to be renewed every 30 days.

Oklahoma State Medical Association President Dr. George Monks said this is a good first step toward protecting many Oklahomans, but that more is needed to meaningfully prevent the worsening situation.

“We’re in a jam and we’re knee deep in this crisis and we’ve got to get out of it and we need Oklahomans’ help to do that,” Dr. Monks said.

The doctor said that with hospitalizations already causing hospitals to divert some patients to out of state hospitals, universal masking is immediately necessary. If everyone started wearing masks right away, he said the state would see the benefits within a week or two.

“We’ve got to have more mitigation measures and that includes everyone masking up. There’s three ways to do that,” Dr. Monks said. “One is we can accomplish universal masking by just all of us doing it together, we can do it through patching together as many city ordinances together, or we can have the state do that and really however that gets done is not up to us but we’re going to continue our efforts. More needs to be done.”

Read the Seventh Amended Executive Order 2020-20 here.

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