By Rep. Mike Sanders
The governor this week took another extraordinary step in trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 and preserve the lives and health of Oklahomans. On Tuesday he instituted a Safer at Home policy telling the elderly and those with compromised immune systems or other underlying health concerns to stay home until April 30 except to go to the grocery or drug store.
He also ordered all non-essential businesses – bars, gyms, theaters, hair salons and a list of others – to close for 21 days through April 14 in the 19 counties where there are currently positive cases of COVID-19. He’s called for a ban on all gathering of more than 10 people. Restaurants can continue to offer carry-out, curbside or delivery.
All visits to nursing homes, long-term care facilities or retirement homes are restricted. All elective surgeries and minor medical or dental procedures are suspended to save medical supplies.
Schools will remain closed for the remainder of this school year, but the State Board of Education will be rolling out some distance learning options for parents and students.
As of Tuesday, there were 109 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 19 counties in Oklahoma, but the governor said the actual number is likely more like 500. When the state ramps up testing that could reach into the thousands. Still, there have been only three deaths in the state from this.
So, we have people saying the governor is not doing enough. There are those who want a statewide shutdown of everything. Then, there are those who are asking why the government is acting so extremely.
Here’s the dilemma. We must try to slow the spread of this virus so that we don’t overwhelm our hospitals and run them out of supplies before the disease actually peaks/ We also have to try and gauge when this disease will be at its worse. If we shut everything down, and this drags on for months, our economy will be worse than it is. We also have a long list of essential employees – health care workers, firefighters, police officers, military, utility workers, those who deliver the groceries and medication, those who support those who deliver these products, etc. These people have to be able to perform their service.
The governor is holding near daily briefings with lawmakers and others so that we can help keep Oklahomans informed. He’s got a task force working with each hospital in the state and other health care providers to assess needs and get supplies where they are critically needed. He will make changes to his orders as they become necessary.
State lawmakers yesterday also had a conference call with U.S. Sen. Lankford to get updates on help that is coming from the federal government. This includes help for small and large businesses, those who have had to claim unemployment, individuals and families and more.
Please continue to pray for our frontline folks, our doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners and all other health care providers, our law enforcement officers and firefighters and other emergency responders, the people working extra shifts to keep our grocery stores stocked and open, our truckers who are bringing us much-needed products and supplies, those working to keep our utilities operating and our water flowing, and the long list of others doing their part to keep our society functioning.
We will get through this crisis with the help of God. We are Oklahomans and Americans. We will pull together and figure out the best way forward. We will be smarter and stronger and more prepared for whatever else may come in the future. We will be OK Oklahoma. Hold tight.
As always, if you have questions or concerns, I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@okhouse.gov or (405) 557-7407.