By Rep. Mike Sanders
These are extraordinary times in which we are living.
With that said, I want to offer reassurance and hope. We are a strong district, a strong state and a strong nation. We have endured every past crisis we’ve faced in Oklahoma and in our nation. We will prevail over this as well.
As far as your state government, and the core services it provides, I want to reassure you that government is functioning, and I will continue to work on behalf of the people in our House district. We are just having to do some things differently. Right now, we are restricting Capitol access to elected state officials, essential employees, credentialed members of the press and state employees that are invited for critical meetings. This could change if necessary. We also voted on emergency procedures that will allow us to work remotely if necessary and to vote by proxy through a caucus designee. This will only happen if absolutely necessary to conduct the business of the state. We must pass a state budget and keep state agencies operational so they can continue to provide services for Oklahomans.
House members met Monday with the state health commissioner to get an update on the spread of this virus, the number of confirmed cases in Oklahoma, current testing protocols and other information that would be helpful for our constituents. At the time of our meeting, there were 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma – there are now 17; 186 people had been tested, and 27 were awaiting a test. Those numbers will change in the coming days.
The main symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, coughing and shortness of breath. The health commissioner stressed that about 80% of people experience only mild symptoms and can self-isolate. While you can check with your doctor, there is no current available treatment for this, so unless symptoms are extreme or a person has an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk, health officials are asking people to stay away from hospital emergency rooms to allow the most severe cases to be tested and treated.
The health commissioner said the state is receiving more tests weekly and we also are set to receive more hospital supplies such as ventilators, masks, gowns and other items.
We all need to continue to practice good hygiene and common sense. Wash your hands frequently; wash surfaces regularly; avoid touching your face. If you feel ill, stay home and away from anyone who might be vulnerable. If you are experiencing a true medical emergency, seek help.
The White House and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are recommending people stay out of gatherings larger than 10. While the state Health Department and the federal government are offering guidelines, it is still up to each municipality to enforce its own codes. That’s why you will see some cities limiting restaurants to being open or closed, while other cities are taking different precautions.
Right now, state public schools are closed through April 6. Jury trials have been temporarily suspended. Visitations at state prisons and many jails are suspended. Many large venues have canceled concerts and other events. I know this puts a crimp on our modern lifestyles, but if we can slow the curve of this virus and not overwhelm our healthcare facilities, we can keep more people healthy and save lives. It’s important to note that very few people have died from this disease in our nation and we’ve had no deaths from this in Oklahoma.
We are a strong state and country. We are Americans, and we will get through this. We must remain vigilant to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and we should stay informed, but we must not panic.
Please offer prayer for our first responders, health care professionals and those affected by this virus. I am asking Almighty God to keep each of us safe and everyone calm during this time.
As always, if you have questions or concerns, I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@okhouse.gov or (405) 557-7407.