Gov. Kevin Stitt pushed for Oklahomans to take more precautions over the next few weeks due to the outbreak of COVID-19 during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Stitt said during the press conference that he issued two executive orders: one “strongly recommending Oklahomans follow all guidance from the CDC to protect public health over the next 15 days,” such as limiting gatherings to 10 people, and a second suspending state regulations that “could be barriers to quickly and proactively reduce the threat of COVID-19.”
To stay proactive in a rapidly changing environment, I am issuing an Executive Order today, strongly recommending Oklahomans follow all guidance from the CDC to protect public health over the next 15 days.— Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) March 17, 2020
The second order also requires all hospitals, medical clinics and private testing labs to report daily on their capacity to take new patients, their equipment supplies and their testing results to the state health department.
“We've also cut regulations on telemedicine, making it much easier to see your doctor without leaving home,” Stitt said during the conference. “This order also allows healthcare professionals ... licensed in another state to get a temporary license to practice. I've also cut restrictions on truck drivers and commercial vehicles so they can effectively respond and transport medical supplies and other items.”
Stitt said his administration is working with the federal government to increase Oklahoma’s supply of tests for COVID-19, and that a 24/7 call center has been set up for Oklahomans at 877-215-8336. Oklahoma State Department of Health Commissioner Gary Cox said the state has ordered the maximum amount of tests at every opportunity, and lags in test availability are due to manufacturing delays on the kits.
“We're committed to making the right decisions based on the available data and being very transparent in all of our decision-makings,” Stitt said. “I know Oklahomans are fearful, I know Oklahomans are anxious, and when I feel that way, I have to turn to the scriptures.”
Stitt said state agencies started implementing telework policies to limit in-person contact, and he encouraged other Oklahoma businesses to “also innovate and quickly mobilize” in allowing their workforce to conduct business remotely.
“I urge Oklahomans to consider curbside pickup and delivery from your favorite restaurants,” Stitt said during the conference. “We need our job creators to get creative during these challenging times. And we must also critically balance protecting public health during this next 15 days.”
The outbreak has caused no disruption in the supply chain, Stitt said, and there is no reason to stock up on items at grocery stores.
Cox said there have been around 350 total tests taken in the state to date, and he hopes the pipeline of supplies from the federal government to conduct more testing will become available soon.
“We're told that that's what to expect, and so we hope that that's the case and we can expand testing,” Cox said.
State epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed said public health investigations of community spread start with an interview of the infected person to identify others who have been close personal contacts, or people who have been within six feet of that person for at least 10 minutes at a time.
OU reported a case of the coronavirus in an unidentified member of the Norman campus community on Sunday, explaining in an email that the university would attempt to track the individual's interactions on campus alongside the Oklahoma State Health Department.
According to an email from the university, "all those impacted will be notified and provided guidance for next steps to be screened and, if necessary, self-isolate," in accordance with Health Department procedure.
“Those individuals that are identified as post-personal time contacts during the time that person could be infectious to others, those persons are advised to adhere to quarantine,” Burnsed said. “So that means to stay in a home limiting their movement in public spaces for the 14 days after or after their last exposure to the case. Other individuals that may just be casual contacts. … They would not be an increased risk.”
Burnsed said they also advise routine disinfection and cleaning in the areas an individual may have been exposed to in order to reduce potential for any indirect transmission.
“I want Oklahoma to know that we will get through this,” Stitt said.