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Local & Regional

Stitt Declares Health Emergency in Oklahoma over COVID-19

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Gov. Kevin Stitt declared on Thursday a 30-day, statewide health emergency over the spread of COVID-19.

The state legislature must meet in special session Monday to concur with or terminate Stitt's executive order declaring the health emergency.

Under state law, the declaration of a health emergency gives the governor broader powers, including waiving regulations that could hinder the public health response, mobilizing the National Guard and reallocating up to $50 million in state funds for the response.

The emergency declaration also lets the governor coordinate a statewide response involving local health departments. State Commissioner of Health Gary Cox has been designated as the primary public health authority.

"Now is the time to align all public health entities in the state as we work together to prepare for a surge in demand on our hospitals," Stitt said in a statement. "This will allow us to coordinate resources and ensure all Oklahomans have the best access to the medical care they need."

A news release from the governor's office said Stitt will also use the declaration to allow health care professionals who have left the workforce to quickly rejoin the front lines against COVID-19 and protect first responders by helping them manage their personal protective equipment.

Stitt wants police and firefighters to know whether a home they are dispatched to has a resident who has tested positive for COVID-19. Patient names and other identifying information will still be restricted.

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