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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt defended his decision to reopen his state’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic, even as his allowances exceed the White House’s recommendations for how soon states should get back up and running.
The Trump administration’s multi-phase plan says that states should not even enter Phase One until they have seen 14 consecutive days of declining cases, which is not the situation in Oklahoma. Stitt is also allowing businesses, including barbershops and beauty salons, to reopen by appointment only, even though Trump recently said he believes they should have to wait longer given the personal nature of their services.
“You have to go back and think about why we closed down in the first place,” Stitt told “Fox News Sunday,” stating the shutdown was geared toward specific goals. “You know I’ve issued 15 executive orders since March 15 when I first declared a state of emergency, but it was to build capacity in our hospitals to make sure we didn’t overrun our health care system, it was to build supply for PPE, and it was to flatten the curve. The facts in our state are, March 30 we peaked in hospitalization with 560 across the state. Today we have 300 across the state in our hospitals.”
Because of that decline, Stitt said it was “time for a measured reopening,” but said, “we have to continue with the social distancing” because coronavirus does remain an issue.
Host Chris Wallace referred to Oklahoma State Medical Association president Dr. George Monks, who said that not only has Oklahoma not seen the 14-day downward trajectory in cases, the state has continued to see increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths over the past week.
“I don’t know exactly who that is,” Stitt said, reiterating that the state has seen a “steady decline since March 30 in hospitalizations,” which is why he is ready to reopen. He said the state is following a “data-driven” approach and “will watch the trends.” If numbers go back up, he said, he reserves the ability to scale back economic activity.
When asked about Trump’s statement Wednesday that businesses such as salons remain shuttered for the time being “because safety has to predominate,” Stitt said he agrees that safety should be a focus, but said Oklahoma’s situation is not the same as every other state.
“I can’t speak to what’s happening in other states, but in my state we’re seeing the trending going down, our testing going up, our tracing, we put 80 different testing sites up, we’ve tested over 55,000 folks, our positive tests right now are 6.3 percent, and again 300 hospitalized cases across the state with a capacity for 4,600, we think it’s a reasonable time to reopen.”
Stitt acknowledged that one could always say the state should wait until there are 100 hospitalizations or even none, but “I just don’t think that’s practical.”