Community , Government , Legal

Gov. Stitt unveils three-tiered plan to slowly reopen the state and resume operations

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Citing a decline in the number of new cases and hospitalizations related to COVID-19, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced April 22 that some of the state’s non-essential businesses will be able to reopen within 48 hours.  

As part of a tiered opening approach, some non-essential businesses will be allowed to resume operations starting on April 24 on a by appointment basis only in communities where shelter in place orders are not in effect. Among the industries specifically referenced by Stitt in his announcement were hair and nail salons, spas and pet groomers.

If opened, those businesses are required to maintain social distancing among customers and adhere to strict sanitation guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Residents are still encouraged to wear masks if possible when out in public and grocery stores are asked to continue offering separate shopping hours for elders and at-risk populations.

Additionally, starting on April 24, surgeries for non-life threatening conditions are allowed to resume in Oklahoma.  

“I want to be clear: when it comes to re-opening our economy, protecting the health of Oklahomans remains my priority,” Stitt said.

On May 1, restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues, gyms, tattoo parlors and places of worship across Oklahoma will be allowed to open but will be required to maintain sanitation and social distancing protocols. However, bars and in-service nursery areas at houses of worship must remain closed.

The state’s three largest cities, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman, all have shelter in place orders in place through April 30. Posted immediately after Gov. Stitt’s press conference, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, a citizen of the Osage Nation, tweeted that his city’s shelter in place proclamation would not be lifted early.

“We dearly hope that public health data allows Oklahoma City to consider entering that new phase on May 1 that the governor has envisioned,” he posted. “We will continue to monitor public health data and will provide updates on our local plans as we have them.”

Tulsa’s mayor, G.T. Bynum, and Norman’s mayor, Breea Clark, also indicated via social media that they have no plans to interrupt their respective communities’ shelter in place orders.

If the state’s hospitalization and incidence rates do not spike in the first two weeks of May, then additional entities will be allowed to resume operations, including youth sports leagues and nursery areas in houses of worship. Employers will still be asked to honor accommodation requests from staffers who are considered at-risk for the virus, including elders over age 65 or those with underlying chronic health conditions.

The third and final phase, currently targeted for June 1, calls for all employers to resume unrestricted staffing levels.  

If there is an increase in the caseload to the point that the state’s hospitals do not have enough personal protective equipment or testing equipment, then state officials will reassess re-opening plans.

The state does not have the authority to re-open or shutter casinos. As of April 22, all of Oklahoma’s 130-plus tribal casinos are closed, including Osage Casinos’ seven properties. Gaming Enterprise Board Chairman Mark Simms previously indicated that the board is eyeing reopening the casinos in May.