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Gov. Kevin Stitt announces 'safer-at-home' policy for vulnerable populations, closes non-essential businesses in counties with coronavirus

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Gov. Kevin Stitt at a press conference at the Oklahoma Capitol on March 1, 2019.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced a “safer-at-home” policy statewide until April 30 for populations particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 in a Facebook Live press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

The policy urges at-risk Oklahomans — such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions — to stay at home “except for essential travel,” Stitt said, including trips to the grocery store and pharmacy.

Effective at midnight Tuesday, Stitt also ordered that gatherings statewide are limited to 10 or fewer people. 

“We need all Oklahomans to take this really, really seriously,” Stitt said.

Stitt also announced an executive order that would suspend elective surgeries, minor medical procedures and non-emergency dental procedures for 14 days.

Stitt ordered that in the 19 counties that have had a confirmed case of the coronavirus, all non-essential businesses must close by 11:59 p.m. tomorrow and remain closed for 21 days. 

Stitt said what qualifies as a non-essential business will follow guidance from the White House and that further guidance would be provided, but that generally these businesses included any with direct social contact. Stitt encouraged restaurants to continue offering services such as drive-thru and takeout.

“We know that COVID-19 is affecting all Oklahomans in one way or another. … We know that as we increase our testing capacity, we will continue to have an increased number of cases. Actually, I think our number of cases are closer to over 500 right now, they’re going to get into the thousands.”

Stitt said the new efforts are part of the administration’s efforts to “flatten the curve” of increased COVID-19 cases, easing the strain on the state’s medical treatment facilities.

“I want Oklahomans to know that we are not standing by idle. We are working around the clock with our healthcare community, our educational leaders, the public sector, the private sector and other experts to make sure we minimize the spread and maximize our efforts to fight against this virus.”

The press conference came ahead of a 3 p.m. press conference where Norman Mayor Breea Clark will announce a stay-at-home order to stop the spread of coronavirus within the city. The order will be enforced on a complaint basis.

A number of shelter-in-place orders have been issued by government officials around the country. The New York Times is reporting that 167 million people have been urged to stay home.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health encourages Oklahomans to stay home, wash hands frequently, avoid touching the face and reduce social contact. If an individual begins experiencing COVID-19 symptoms — including fever, cough or shortness of breath — contact a medical professional or call the COVID-19 call center at 877-215-8336 or 211 for assistance.

Scott Kirker is a letters and Spanish senior and assistant news managing editor for The Daily. Previously he worked as summer editor-in-chief and as a news reporter covering research and administrative searches.

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