Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt engaged in a back and forth with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on Sunday about the wisdom of reopening his state amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
As they move to Phase One of President Donald Trump’s reopening blueprint, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and other states are drawing fire from those who think they are opening things up too soon. Oklahoma specifically has had only 195 coronavirus deaths in a population of almost four million.
During his Sunday conversation with Wallace about the issue on “Fox News Sunday,” Stitt emphasized safety as well as the fact that his state is on the downward side of the coronavirus curve.
“You have to go back and think about why we closed down in the first place,” said Stitt. “You know, I’ve issued 15 executive orders since March 15th, when I first declared the state of emergency, but it was to build capacity in our hospitals, to make sure we didn’t over run our health care system, it was to build supply for PPE and it was to flatten the curve.”
In calling for a “measured reopening,” the Oklahoma governor said his state’s hospitalization rate has gone from a peak of 560 at the end of March to 300 today.
Wallace pushed back with a clip from the head of Oklahoma’s medical association, Dr. George Monks, saying the state is “far from” a two-week downward trajectory in cases.
“Well, I don’t know exactly who that is, but the Department of Health head in our state is Gary Cox, and we have followed all of the White House guidelines,” Stitt responded. “There were four gates that we’ve met. And the facts are, we have been on a steady decline since March 30th in hospitalizations and we have 300 across our state. And that’s when we decided to have a measured reopening.”
“We’re always going to be data driven in Oklahoma,” he continued, citing Oklahoma’s testing numbers and 80 mobile testing sites and emphasizing that they can always “kick back one of those phases” if necessary.
Stitt described how churches and restaurants would reopen with careful guidelines like filling every other pew, spreading tables, and other measures.
When asked if President Trump was wrong when saying spas, beauty shops, barbers and tattoo parlors should “wait a little bit longer,” Stitt responded by insisting that “safety is number one.”
“We’re data-driven,” he said. “I can’t speak to what’s happening in other states. But in my state, we’re seeing the trending go down. Our testing is going up. Our tracing. We put 80,000 — 80 different testing sites up. We’ve tested over 55,000 folks. Our positive tests right now are 6.3 percent. And, again, 300 hospitalized cases across the state with a capacity for 4,600. We think it’s a reasonable time to reopen.” (RELATED: ‘The Data Is In — Stop The Panic And End The Total Isolation’: Fmr. Stanford Chief Of Neuroradiology Discusses Viral Column)
“And you could always play Monday morning quarterback and say, hey, let’s wait until we have 100 folks in the hospital in Oklahoma or 50 or zero, but I just don’t think that’s practical,” Stitt continued. “So we’ve done what we set out to do on March 15th.”
After Wallace pointed out that some of the state’s mayors feel their cities aren’t ready, the Oklahoma governor stated his intention to allow local authorities to “make decisions based on their communities.”