The Trump administration says Oklahomans must "act now" to get a handle on the coronavirus as hospitalizations hit their highest level ever and the state's COVID-19 death rate reaches the federal "red zone."
In a report to Gov. Kevin Stitt from Vice President Mike Pence's White House coronavirus task force dated Sunday and publicly released by the state on Wednesday, federal officials tell Oklahoma to increase the urgency and strictness of public messaging around mitigation strategies.
"With the daily new hospital admissions at high levels, there must be clear messaging to Oklahomans to act now: Do not gather without a mask with individuals living outside of your household; Always wear a mask in public places; Stop gatherings beyond immediate household until cases and test positivity decrease significantly," the report reads.
As Pence's team has previously warned the governor, they write that "partial or incomplete mitigation leads to prolonged community spread, hospitalizations, and increased fatalities."
The report also suggests indoor dining capacity be reduced to 50% and restaurant hours be reduced, calling those measures "effective practices to decrease transmission," and says all students and teachers in K-12 schools must wear masks. (The Oklahoma State Board of Education in July voted against requiring districts to require masks, leaving each district to their own devices to decide whether or not to implement the public health measure.)
The task force says "Behaviors seem to be eroding in university towns with increasing cases and test positivity," and instructs the state government to work with universities to ensure all students are tested at least once a week.
At least 1,413 Oklahomans have been killed by the novel coronavirus. As of Thursday, the seven-day rolling averages for both new cases and reported deaths were at their highest ever levels. As of Wednesday night, 1,055 Oklahomans were hospitalized due to the virus, also the highest level ever.