As some colleges and universities across the country have become hotbeds for new COVID-19 outbreaks since welcoming students back to campus for fall semester, Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday stressed that students at Oklahoma institutions should remain on campus if they become infected.
"I have a daughter in college, so my wife and I can relate to wanting your children at home if they tested positive, or just wanting them at home anyway," Stitt said at a Capitol press conference. "But please, once you're on campus, please stay on campus. This will allow us to contain the spread of the virus around the state."
Stitt said colleges and universities should have plans in place to keep infected students isolated from others to try to mitigate spread.
The governor said the recommendation came straight from the White House.
"I was on a call with the other governors and the vice president yesterday with his coronavirus task force, and he wanted me to remind and pass on a message to all of our college students and their families: If you test positive, we really need you and want you and implore you to stay on campus," Stitt said.
Stitt has notably rejected past guidance from Vice President Mike Pence and his task force. Weekly reports issued to Oklahoma have repeatedly called on Stitt to implement a statewide mask mandate, a measure he has rejected. Pence's task force has also urged the closure of all bars in the state, a recommendation which Stitt has also not shown interest in pursuing.
As of Sept. 10, the New York Times reported 1,374 known cases at Oklahoma colleges and universities, though that number is likely an undercount due to no national or statewide standard for reporting. Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said last week that colleges and universities are settings with some of the most newly identified infections in Tulsa County.