OKLAHOMA CITY — Another option for coping with the rapid spread of COVID-19 is again putting elective surgeries on hold, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday, adding that he could consider another statewide shutdown if current trends continue.
“If we see them (cases) continuing to go up and watching the hospitalizations and their capacity, the next lever would be elective surgeries,” Stitt said.
Earlier in the week he had put new restrictions on bars and restaurants and required state employees to wear masks.
The governor’s comments came during a briefing with reporters at the Capitol on Thursday after similar press conferences held by Tulsa and Oklahoma City mayors in response to COVID-19 surges in their areas.
Stitt put a hold on elective surgeries earlier in the year to free up space in hospitals for surges of COVID patients, but they have now resumed.
He said Thursday that hospitals again have been encouraged to create surgical-reduction plans to relieve capacity issues.
“It is really a tough situation when we limit elective surgeries,” Stitt said. “That makes the blood pressure of every physician go up.”
He noted that during the previous halt to nonurgent surgeries, some heart procedures didn’t get performed, and that led to deaths of non-COVID patients.
“I take that very seriously, limiting that,” Stitt said. “We want hospitals to do that (elective surgeries). We want the health professionals to do that.”
Health Commissioner Lance Frye said there is a point where elective surgeries or nonessential surgeries will have to be stopped.
“How quickly we get there or when we get there, I don’t know, but there is a threshold,” he said.
Frye said hospitals will notify the state when that time comes.
Stitt said it is “possible” that he could consider rolling back the reopening of the state after a previous shutdown if the current trends continue — but only after other measures are exhausted.
“Well, there is always a possibility of that,” Stitt said. “But the cases, the hospitalizations, the elective surgeries — all those things have to be first.”
The goals, Stitt explained, are to protect the health and lives of Oklahomans and keep businesses and schools safely open.
He said he plans to attend the Bedlam football game between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University this weekend and spend Thanksgiving with his family and parents.
“I am going to do it safely,” Stitt said. “I think Oklahomans should be with their loved ones over Thanksgiving. Let’s be safe about it.”
Stitt said he was proud of Oklahomans, adding that they are doing a good job despite the record increases in infections and hospitalizations.
“It is certainly something we need to keep our foot on the gas, so to speak, and make sure we do our part coming into the holidays and winter as we have seen our cases tick up in the state of Oklahoma,” Stitt said.
His remarks came as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spike across the state and nation. The mayors of the state’s two largest cities asked residents at their respective press conferences to adhere strictly to precautions as the state moves into the holiday season.
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum asked residents to take a 10-day break from high-risk activities to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases and strain on hospital systems.
As of Thursday evening, the Oklahoma State Health Department reported that 1,428 patients remained hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 and that 421 of those patients were in intensive care units.