Sen. Lankford believes Oklahoma reopening at right time
May 6, 2020
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma is reopening businesses that were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic at the right time, U.S. Sen. James Lankford said Tuesday.
"I don't think it's soon. We've already got about 15 states in the same process," and even hard-hit New York is considering how to follow suit, Lankford told The Associated Press. "There will always be second-guessing on the timing ... it's still the right time."
Gov. Kevin Stitt in April announced plans to allow a phased reopening, first of businesses such as barber shops, hair and nail salons, followed by restaurants, malls, gyms, and churches.
Stitt said the state has met White House criteria for reopening, including fewer new coronavirus cases and deaths, and a decline in hospitalizations.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Tuesday reported 4,127 confirmed cases of the virus, up from 4,044 confirmed cases a day earlier, and nine more deaths for a toll of at least 247.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people haven't been tested and studies suggest people can have the disease without showing symptoms.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The Oklahoma Legislature agreed Tuesday to renew for another 30 days sweeping powers given to the governor to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The House and Senate each approved a resolution under the Catastrophic Health Emergency Act, which gives Stitt the authority to suspend laws and regulations that interfere with the state's pandemic response.
It also gives the governor the authority to redirect state employees and other resources, including up to $50 million in state funds, from one agency to another, among other things.
Key to controlling the spread of the virus is a test that provides results faster than the current 24- to 48-hour turnaround, Lankford said.
"We're not even close yet to getting a rapid test," he said, voicing hope for a test that would provide results within minutes.
Lankford said he wears a mask in public, but he defended the right of people to not wear one, including protesters. He said up to 25% of people he sees in stores are not wearing any covering over their nose and mouth that would protect against transmission of the virus.
"It's their decision," Lankford said, adding that those who don't like that they are not wearing a mask can step out of their way.
The University of Central Oklahoma on Tuesday announced plans to resume in-person classes for the fall semester.
UCO, the state's third-largest four-year university, joined the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, the two largest, in announcing plans for in-person classes.
Colleges and universities in the state began online classrooms in mid-March as the virus began spreading in Oklahoma and several others have also announced plans to resume in-person classes for the fall semester.
Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show the day of legislative approval of the Catastrophic Health Emergency Act was Tuesday, not Monday.