Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a Facebook Live video Thursday afternoon that Oklahoma’s positive COVID-19 cases continue to remain manageable as the state prepares to move into Phase 2 of his reopening plan Friday.
Stitt said the state is 20 days into its Open Up and Recover Safely plan, which he said is “a measured approach to reopening.” Since the start of Phase 1 of the plan, Stitt said state officials have seen some success, as the amount of COVID-19 cases continues to hold relatively steady while testing efforts expand.
Oklahoma has the eighth-lowest number of cases per capita in the United States, Stitt said.
The state is currently testing more people per capita than California, Georgia and Florida, Stitt said. He added that California was one of the first states to enter a statewide lockdown, and they have 33 percent more positive cases per capita than Oklahoma.
Stitt said when Phase 1 began on April 24, 306 Oklahomans were in hospitals around the state, but that number has continued to decline. He said there are now only 218 occupied hospital beds in Oklahoma, with 4,600 total hospital beds statewide.
Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan allows organized sports to resume, as well as weddings and funerals to take place in person, according to the Oklahoma government’s website. Stitt said his Safer at Home order, which encourages Oklahomans that are 65 and older or have underlying health conditions to stay home, will remain in effect until the end of May.
“Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas, but if the data continues to hold, we will be able to move safely into the final stage of our reopening plan on June 1,” Stitt said.
Stitt said more guidance on Phase 3 of the reopening plan will come from the state in the coming days.
Strategies that other states use to contain the spread of COVID-19 might not make sense for Oklahomans, Stitt said, and creating a state-wide strategy requires a clear and unfiltered perspective. In developing that strategy, Stitt said two main priorities have been protecting Oklahomans and reviving the state economy.
Some fear that reviving state and national economies could come at the expense of workers’ lives. Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK) recently introduced a bill providing hazard pay for healthcare workers, citing the sacrifice many are making to continue working.
Stitt said coronavirus-related data can be found at the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s website, adding that state data has received an A+ from “national groups” for its transparency and level of detail.
Stitt said many people have come to him with concerns that the state isn’t doing enough testing. However, he said the World Health Organization stipulates if less than 10 percent of the testing in an area brings in positive cases, enough testing is probably being done in that area.
Stitt also said he expects antibody testing to ramp up across the state in the coming months.
The state government has set up a financial transparency team to help monitor and maximize money sent through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, Stitt said. He said state officials are working to release daily updates on the act, as well as set up a portal for local governments to apply for reimbursement for coronavirus-related expenses.
“I want Oklahoma to be the first state in the nation to get its wings back and serve as an example of a community that works together — not against each other — a community that wins together, succeeds together and thrives together,” Stitt said.