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Governor Kevin Stitt referred to the concept of shelter in place as “bunker in place” several times during a news conference Wednesday afternoon rejecting the idea for the state.

This comes even after Oklahoma’s two largest cities’ mayors have issued clear shelter-in-place orders Saturday and the third-largest city, Lawton, will have a shelter in place ordinance take effect Thursday.

A number of other cities like Stillwater and Norman have also issued shelter in place orders.

But, after being cautious during stages of the COVID-19 crisis leading up to Wednesday, the most Stitt did in his new order was to extend his “safer at home” order for those over 65 to all 77 counties. The order now extends out to April 30.

Before the news conference there was speculation that Stitt would finally issue the shelter in place order from the state as Oklahoma deaths and infections from the coronavirus were multiplying exponentially each day.

After earlier commending the Governor on Twitter for extending his previous order to all 77 counties, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt added this:

Acknowledging realities

Stitt was far more direct than in past news conferences in recognizing the coming realities of COVID-19 infections increasing in the state.

He asked that if anyone has symptoms for has been close to someone who has contracted the disease they should be tested.

He reported that Oklahoma State University would be added to the states list of labs processing the tests.

Also, the Governor reported that six drive-through facilities and 13 mobile testing facilities would come on line by the end of the week.

Stitt acknowledged: “The best way to slow the curve is more testing.”

And, he said that the state needs more good data on the spread of the disease in order to stop it. That will require many more tests than have been done until this week.

He also mentioned that it’s “the right time to take these steps to protect health care workers.”

Uncomfortable questions

When reporters were allowed to ask questions on a Zoom video conference, Stitt’s face, head, and neck became visibly red in response to some questions.

One reporter asked, “Do you feel like you are doing enough to protect Oklahomans?”

Stitt’s response was, “It’s impractical to bunker in for the next 30 days.” He then went on to urge people to wash their hands, practice safe distancing and other personal actions recommended by the CDC.

Several times during the conference Stitt emphasized that the success of fighting the pandemic in Oklahoma would come down to “personal responsibility” in using safe practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

The news conference ended abruptly shortly after Ben Felder with Frontier asked: “Governor, do you think the number of positive cases would be lower right now had your original order that targeted 19 counties extended to all counties?

“I don’t think there is any way to speculate on that,” Stitt said forcefully.

One other reporter attempted to ask a question but technical difficulties kept her from asking.

Then the news conference ended quickly with no call for further questions.

Legislative response

Urban members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Democratic Caucus responded quickly.

Representative Jason Dunnington, HD88 — Oklahoma City, spoke up on Twitter after the news conference was over.

Saying over & over Oklahomans have to keep themselves safe, that it is personal responsibility, is almost like saying if you get #COVID19 it’s your fault we can’t do anything else. Meanwhile, other states continue to take more proactive measures to protect their citizens.

Oklahoma House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, HD 44 — Norman, also spoke out about the Governor’s new order not going far enough.

Free Press contacted Virgin for further comment about Wednesday’s order.

She wrote:

The Governor’s action today still does not require all Oklahomans to stay at home unless they’re performing essential tasks, like working at an essential business or shopping for groceries. His “safer at home” order only applies to the elderly and other vulnerable populations. We need strong guidance for all Oklahomans from our state government, like we’ve received from some of our mayors. Without this order, we’re risking losing more Oklahomans to COVID-19.

Last Updated April 17, 2020, 10:46 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor