Gov. Kevin Stitt on Sunday repeatedly emphasized that he would not yet subject Oklahoma to a shelter-in-place order despite other states in the country opting to do so.
“We have a different set of facts here,” Stitt said, adding that epidemiologists are monitoring when the state’s spike in cases could possibly be. “I’m not saying it couldn’t happen.”
The comments came during an evening news conference that announced many new efforts to combat COVID-19 coming this week, including four mobile testing sites.
The sites will be set up in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, McAlester and Kay County, and in combination with the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University labs being allowed to conduct COVID-19 testing, health officials expect the state’s testing capability to expand tenfold by the end of the week.
Secretary of Science and Innovation Dr. Kayse Shrum said the lab at OSU’s Center for Health Sciences alone is able to run 2,000 tests per day that yield results in at least 24 hours. A new platform to facilitate screening for all Oklahomans is also expected to surface this week, Secretary of Health and Mental Health Jerome Loughridge said.
Shrum and Loughridge are part of the Governor’s Solution Task Force, which Stitt said is closely tracking the spread of the virus in the state, as well as the availability of personal protective equipment for health care workers.
Loughridge said Oklahoma hospitals currently have about 9.3 days’ worth of protective equipment on hand, but Shrum is overseeing the distribution of the first shipment of such from the federal government, and a database will help determine those with critical need.
Donation sites will also be erected this week for PPE from manufacturers or residents, Stitt said, and the state plans to be transparent with its needs in the coming days as inventory is taken.
Stitt also dispelled a rumor that the Oklahoma National Guard was getting ready to deploy to close the state’s borders.
“That’s not true,” he said.
Nineteen members of the Oklahoma National Guard have been activated, Maj. Gen. Michael Thompson said, and their only job is to help.
Thompson sought to quell Oklahomans’ fears of the Guard’s presence by reminding them that those who come out of reserves are people from their community — their neighbors, coworkers and teammates, not a nameless, faceless force of bureaucracy.
“We’re never in charge,” he added, explaining that the Guard acts only as an extension of Stitt’s orders. “If the Guard is called out, we’re here to help.”
Stitt also praised the innovation of businesses and sought to stop residents from panicking and flocking to grocery stores, saying President Donald Trump has said the supply chain will not be disrupted and stores will remain open.
“There’s no need for Oklahomans to stockpile months’ worth of anything,” Stitt said. “That’s straight from the president, so you do not need to worry about that.”