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Stitt Tests Positive for COVID, Maintains Mask Mandate or Scaling Back Reopening Is Unnecessary

Updated July 15, 2:55 p.m. with information about Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Wednesday morning he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Stitt appears to be the first governor in the U.S. to contract COVID-19. He is tested regularly and said he received his positive result on a test administered Tuesday, after he participated in a meeting of the Commissioners of the Land Office that involved Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, Agriculture Secretary Blayne Arthur and other officials.

Stitt was photographed not wearing a mask during that meeting. Pinnell tweeted shortly after Stitt's announcement he was seeking a COVID-19 test.

"While we wait on the results, I am quarantining and working at home, with no symptoms at this time," Pinnell wrote.

Stitt said during a Wednesday news conference held via Zoom his only symptom so far has been slight achiness. He is staying in isolation for the time being, and State Health Commissioner Lance Frye said contact tracers are following standard protocol to notify people Stitt has been within 6 feet of for more than 15 minutes.

Stitt said First Lady Sarah Stitt and their six children have all tested negative since he got his result.

The positive test has not changed Stitt's perspective on issuing a statewide mask requirement or scaling back Oklahoma's reopening. Stitt said his main concerns with requiring face coverings are infringing on Oklahomans' freedom and that a mandate would be difficult to enforce.

"Are we going to put people in jail? What if the mask falls underneath somebody’s nose? What if it was not the mask that you expected them to wear? They needed an N95 and they didn’t have an N95. So, you just open up a big can of worms. This is a personal responsibility," Stitt said.

Stitt also reiterated Wednesday that dealing with the virus is Oklahoma's "new normal" that could last up to two years until a proven vaccine and better treatments are available. Oklahoma saw more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time Wednesday, and 561 people were in the hospital according to the latest count. Hospitalizations have steadily climbed since Oklahoma entered phase three of its reopening plan on June 1.

The state's record for hospitalizations is 562, set on March 31.

Stitt said in April he would scale back Oklahoma's reopening if data warranted but did not specify a threshold for doing so. On Wednesday, he said there still is not a need to put restrictions back in place.

"When you slow things back down, all you’re doing is delaying and flattening the curve. If we’ve already flattened the curve to build capacity, that was our whole goal. And so, at this point, it’s way, way premature to think about slowing down or backing up a phase," Stitt said.

Kai Vietnamese Restaurant in Tulsa posted to Facebook shortly after Stitt's announcement it would close until further notice. According to the post, Stitt visited the restaurant last week. The owners want time to have the restaurant disinfected and get staff tested.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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