Governor declines to roll back state’s re-opening despite uptick in cases

OKLAHOMA CITY — Despite a surge in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Kevin Stitt has no plans to roll back Oklahoma’s re-opening plans.

“Closing down the economy is not part of the discussion at this point,” he said, addressing reporters at the Oklahoma Capitol on June 25. “We’re so far away from talking about this. Again, we have to learn how to live with it.

“Closing down with 277 people in the hospital? Absolutely not. That is not part of the discussion.”

Gov. Stitt’s announcement came just hours after his Texas counterpart, Gov. Greg Abbott, announced that the Lone Star State would pause its reopening efforts. Texas reported 5,551 new COVID-19 cases on June 24 alone and to date, has had 2,249 deaths due to the virus.

According to data published on June 25 by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, more than 5,300 Oklahomans have been diagnosed with the virus just in the month of June, roughly equal to the combined 2019 populations of Hominy, Barnsdall and Fairfax. By comparison, Oklahoma had 6,573 cases in the first three months of the pandemic combined.

Although the number of fatalities has remained relatively flat, the number of cases requiring hospitalization has also ticked upwards in June.

“We’re 63 days into our safely reopening plan,” Stitt said. “We knew we would have a bump or a spike in the numbers.”

Rather than roll back the state’s reopening phases, Gov. Stitt instead urged businesses to allow employees to work from home. He also demurred when asked about mandating wearing masks in public, as some other states have implemented, and some Oklahoma municipal leaders have openly considered in response to the June spike.

“We have to learn how to deal with this and how to continue to flatten that curve,” he said.