OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Following a dramatic increase in the number of coronavirus cases across Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt says he is enacting new regulations on restaurants and bars to slow the spread of the virus.
“As you are aware, our cases of COVID-19 continue to go up here in Oklahoma and they’re continuing to go up all across the country. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state of Oklahoma has gone up 19% just in the last week. Throughout this entire battle, my first priority has always been to protect the health and lives of Oklahomans. That’s still true today and that’s always gonna be true,” he said.
On Monday, data from Oklahoma State Department of Health shows that the state has had 156,857 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March.
There were 10 additional deaths caused by the virus, bringing the state’s total number of deaths to 1,538.
For weeks, hospitals across the state have been sounding alarm bells about the dwindling number of ICU beds available throughout Oklahoma.
Last week, Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum called on other city and state leaders to do more to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We need help. We’ve reached the point where us doing this alone as a city government, which we’ve tried to do our best throughout this pandemic, we’ve reached a point where we can’t control the spread of this virus anymore when we’re getting about 68% of our hospital patients from outside the city limits, where we don’t govern,” Bynum said.
As of Nov. 13, officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health say 1,247 patients were in Oklahoma hospitals with either a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19.
“Based on the data in our state, specifically the rise in hospitalizations, now is the time to do more,” said Gov. Stitt. “We need to pull together. Oklahoma, I need your help but more importantly, our doctors, our nurses, our healthcare professionals and hospitals need your help.”
Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Col. Lance Frye says with Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, Oklahomans need to prepare now for a change in the holiday.
Stitt says his other priorities are keeping businesses open safely and getting all children back to in-person learning by January.
“In-person learning is so important to the development and the mental health of our children,” Stitt said.
Beginning Thursday, restaurants must ensure that all tables are six feet apart.
“This will allow them to continue to operate safely while making sure everyone is socially distanced. If they can’t stay six feet apart, they can also install properly sanitized dividers between tables, booths, and bar areas. The goal is to keep groups separated so we can slow the spread of COVID,” he said.
Also, all bars and restaurants must close each night at 11 p.m. However, curbside and drive-thru areas may still remain open.
“We need to slow the spread of this virus. Data shows that social distancing is harder to maintain as it gets later at night, especially in bars,” Stitt said.
In addition to the new regulations on bars and restaurants, Stitt says he is also implementing a mask mandate for state employees and those visiting state buildings. This order applies to 33,000 state employees.
“I continue to encourage Oklahomans to wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance. I’ve been saying this for months. They work and we need your help,” he said.
The Oklahoma Senate Leadership says the chamber will follow the Governor’s mandate for state employees.
“Masks are an effective way to slow the transmission of COVID-19, and each of us should wear one when appropriate. I appreciate Governor Stitt for taking measures to protect public health. This is a serious disease. We should all take it seriously and take the necessary steps to protect our neighbors and ourselves. The Senate will observe the governor’s executive order in an effort to protect the health and safety of those who work in the Capitol and those who may visit the People’s House.”Greg Treat (R), Oklahoma Senate Pro Tempore