Oklahoma rolled out on Thursday the latest piece of its coronavirus response: a COVID alert system.
"It’s a tiered, colored system similar to that of a weather warning system that communicates risk level and information at a county level. The intent of this alert system is to protect health and lives while enabling social and economic activity to resume in the different phases of the pandemic," said Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye.
The system is based on counties’ seven-day rolling average per 100,000 residents. The highest any county is on the green-to-red system right now is orange, indicating more than 14.39 cases per 100,000. Tulsa County falls into that category, with 17.85, as do McClain, McCurtain and Ottawa counties. Ottawa County currently has 44.99 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, according to the alert system page.
Guidelines at the orange level include asking individuals to consider wearing face coverings, to limit out-of-state travel, and practice health screenings before sports events or practices. They do not mandate or recommend steps like closing restaurants.
Gov. Kevin Stitt said Oklahoma is doing very well with reopening, noting almost three-fourths of the roughly 12,000 new cases since the state moved to phase three on June 1 have been among people under 50, and "just six" of them have died.
"We know we will continue to see new cases, and this will be our new normal for the foreseeable future. This system, however will show Oklahomans how to deal with this virus on a prolonged basis," Stitt said.
House Democrats called for a similar warning system two weeks ago. Stitt said they were "playing politics" during a pandemic.
Frye and Stitt said hospital capacity statewide is fine, noting low ICU bed numbers reflect hospital staffing levels, not actual beds, and that executives prefer their hospitals be full.
Stitt reiterated Thursday he will not mandate masks across the state, but he said he will not interfere with local officials who decide to require them.