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Local & Regional

Stitt Orders New COVID Restrictions as Pandemic Continues to Worsen

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Gov. Kevin Stitt ordered on Monday new but limited statewide COVID-19 restrictions.

Starting Tuesday, state employees must wear masks in common areas of their buildings. All visitors at state buildings must wear masks as well.

And starting Thursday, bars and restaurants must either keep tables 6 feet apart or install appropriate dividers between them, and they must close at 11 p.m.

Oklahoma Restaurant Association President Jim Hopper said the industry is on board.

"It’s going to be difficult, and it will take away sales. But we’ve seen so many restrictive things that have been done in other states by completely shutting down in-person dining, inside dining and we don’t want that to happen," Hopper said.

Research indicates the coronavirus can spread outside the recommended 6-foot social distancing range indoors, especially with poor ventilation.

Stitt again encouraged Oklahomans to wear masks, wash their hands frequently and maintain social distancing, and he said his top priority is keeping Oklahomans safe and healthy.

"Two other things are also very important to me: We’re going to keep our businesses open safely, and we want to get all kids back in school at the end of the Christmas break," Stitt said.

Several districts have moved students to distance learning through at least Thanksgiving because of rising coronavirus numbers. In Green Country, that includes Bixby, Broken Arrow, Glenpool, Jenks, Sand Springs and Union.

In a statement issued Monday, Oklahoma State Medical Association President Dr. George Monks said he was pleased to see incremental steps that can make a difference.

"And while protecting state employees is a laudable goal, we need to do more to protect all Oklahomans. Our health care system is already stretched thin and, with holiday gatherings coming up, things are likely to get worse before they get better. OSMA will continue to call for more measures that can help mitigate this virus, including universal masking and efforts to attract nurses and physicians from other states to come to Oklahoma," Monks said.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., who has been critical of Stitt’s inaction during the current surge in infections, tweeted his thanks for the new steps but added a statewide mask mandate is still urgently needed.

Oklahoma added 2,729 cases of COVID-19 to its total on Monday. The state's seven-day average of new cases remains near record levels, and hospitalizations reached another new high Monday night, hitting 1,381 with a record 390 in intensive care beds.

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