White House Recommends No Gatherings Beyond Immediate Family For Most Counties As Outbreak Worsens

Oct 21, 2020

The Trump administration is calling on Gov. Kevin Stitt to increase efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Oklahoma as the state's pandemic numbers grow worse.

"Mitigation efforts must be strengthened, especially in areas with increasing cases and test positivity and new admissions," Vice President Mike Pence's White House coronavirus task force writes in a report dated Sunday and released by the state Wednesday. "These should include mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds in public and social gatherings in private, and ensuring flu immunizations."

The report says Oklahoma has fallen out of the top ten states for most new infections per capita this week, but only because other states' outbreaks are worsening at a quicker pace. Over the week ending Oct. 16, Oklahoma saw its rate of new infections per 100,000 people increase by 9%, from 190 to 207.

Oklahoma worsened from 8th highest to 7th highest test positivity rate over the same timeframe, increasing from 10.0% to 10.9%. 

The report recommends against gatherings of all sizes for most of the state.

"In red and orange counties, both public and private gatherings should be as small as possible and optimally not extend beyond immediate family," Pence's team recommends. 53 of Oklahoma's 77 counties are classified as orange or red.

"Work with rural communities to demonstrate how real the disease is in their communities," the report states. 

Stitt has declined to implement many of the White House's COVID-19 recommendations in the past, which have included a statewide mask mandate and the closure of bars. Earlier this month, Pence's team wrote that many recent coronavirus deaths in Oklahoma could have been prevented, prompting a statement from a spokesperson saying the governor "vehemently disputes the editorial opinion."