At this time last week, Oklahoma had logged 140,157 cases of Covid-19. Today, that number stands at 158,408 — a 13 percent increase in just seven days.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, 1,544 Oklahomans have died from the virus while 10,481 have been hospitalized. In Washington County alone, 1,685 people have been infected; 43 have died.
In an effort to help slow the spread of the virus, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday announced new restrictions for some businesses that included required social distancing for restaurants, earlier close times for restaurants and bars, and masks for all State employees and visitors to State facilities.
“As you are aware, our cases of Covid-19 continue to go up in Oklahoma and they’re continuing to go up all across the country,” Stitt said during a press conference held Monday. “The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in the state of Oklahoma has gone up 19 percent just in the last week.”
Stitt said the state must begin to work toward meeting three goals: to protect lives and health of Oklahomans, to keep businesses open safely and to return students for in-person school by the end of the year.
To help accomplish this, Stitt outlined the following restrictions for businesses across the state:
Effective Thursday, Nov. 19, 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,” Stitt said. “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.”
Also effective on Thursday, Nov. 19, all bars and restaurants must close at 11 p.m.
“No in-person service of food or alcohol will be allowed after 11 except for curbside or drive-through windows,” he said. “We need to slow the spread of this virus. The data shows that social distancing is harder to maintain as it gets later at night, especially in bars.”
Effective Tuesday, Nov. 17, masks are required for all State employees and visitors to State facilities.
“This applies to 33,000 State employees across all State agencies that fall under the executive branch,” he said. “A mask will be required for anyone visiting State buildings as well.”
What you can do now
Stitt reiterated use of “the three Ws,” promoted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for months: Wear a mask, Wash your hands, and Watch your distance.
“I continue to encourage Oklahomans to wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance,” he said. “I’ve been saying these for months. They work, and we need your help. From the beginning, I promised Oklahomans to always make the right decisions based on the facts and the data. We’ve been fully reopened for six months now, but recently we’ve seen our numbers start to climb … Based on the data in our state, specifically the rise in hospitalizations, now is the time to do more. We need to pull together.
“Oklahoma, I need your help. But more importantly, our doctors, our nurses, our health care workers and hospitals need your help. What we’re announcing today won’t last forever, but they’re targeted steps that we can do to keep Oklahomans healthy, to keep our businesses open safely, and to keep our kids back in school in person. I need every Oklahoman to think about what they personally can do to help slow the spread: Wear a mask when you’re around other people, watch your distance and wash your hands frequently. ”
Restaurant industry lends support
Jim Hopper, president and CEO of Oklahoma Restaurant Association, lent support to the measures on behalf of the restaurant industry.
“On behalf of our membership across the state of Oklahoma, I want to let Oklahomans know that our industry supports the actions taken today by the governor,” Hopper said. “We’re committed to doing our part as an industry while continuing to operate our businesses safely. The governor has set the example by requiring masks for his State employees. We will follow that example and ask and request that all restaurant workers wear masks.”
State’s top medical official agrees
Dr. Lance Frye, interim commissioner of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, also stressed the importance of distancing, hand washing and mask wearing.
“We know this virus is everywhere,” said Frye. “If you think it isn’t in your community, you’re wrong. It’s living among us, all around the country, and we have to take it seriously.
“By now, every Oklahoman has heard us talk about the three Ws: Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance. These actions aren’t trite. Science says they work to slow the spread. The governor has asked us countless times to wear a mask, and it’s critical that you do. Masks work.”
Frye said masks “are only part of the story,” however, and implored Oklahomans to reconsider how they celebrate upcoming holidays.
“If we don’t adjust how we gather next week, Christmas could be much worse,” he said.
Small things can make a difference, he said, offering the following suggestions:
- Get a free test before gathering with your family. Call 211 to find out where you can do this.
- Spread tables out and distance appropriately
- Open a window or door — or better yet, eat outside
- Wear a “festive” mask for the holiday
- Deliver food to at-risk family members and talk to them from a safe distance
City manager: It’s going to take all of us
City Manager Mike Bailey said Executive Order 2020-20 outlining the new restrictions was issued by the governor on Monday. Bailey urged all Bartlesville residents to take safety precautions to mitigate spread of the virus.
“Covid-19 continues to be a serious threat to us all, not only to our health and well-being, but also to our economy and livelihoods and to our health care and medical community,” Bailey said. “We must work together as a community to help bring this virus under control. It’s going to take every one of us doing our part.”