Stitt puts new restrictions on bars, restaurants amid surge
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. Stitt is imposing new restrictions on bars and restaurants and requiring masks in state buildings as officials attempt to control the surging number of coronavirus infections. SUE OGROCKI/ASSOCATED PRESS
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced on Nov. 16 new restrictions on bars and restaurants and plans to require mask wearing inside state buildings, the first state restrictions imposed since the economy reopened in May, as officials attempt to control the surging number of coronavirus infections.
Stitt said effective Nov. 19, bars and restaurants statewide must have all tables spaced 6 feet apart and close in-person service at 11 p.m.
“We need to slow the spread of this virus,” Stitt said. “Data shows that social distancing is harder to maintain as it gets later at night, especially in bars.”
Stitt also plans to require all state employees and visitors to state buildings to wear masks indoors, although the state Legislature will have to impose that restriction for the state Capitol, he said. Many state lawmakers, security personnel and visitors to the Capitol do not wear masks inside the building, but House and Senate leaders both said on Nov. 16 that they plan to enact a similar policy.
Stitt implored Oklahomans to wear masks in public, practice social distancing and good hand hygiene, with hopes that all Oklahoma school districts can reopen for in-person learning after Christmas break.
“In-person learning is so important to the development and the mental health of children,” he said. “Those are the goals, and it’s going to take everyone’s help in the state of Oklahoma to help us get there.”
Dr. George Monks, the president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said he was pleased with the “small changes" the governor planned, but reiterated his call for a statewide mask mandate, which the governor has continued to resist.
Oklahoma reported 2,729 new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Nov. 16 and 10 additional deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 156,857 and the death toll to 1,538 since the pandemic began in March. The true number of infections, though, is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Oklahoma had risen during the past two weeks from 1,053.57 new cases per day on Nov. 1 to 2,552.86 new cases per day on Nov. 15, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Among the biggest concern of state health officials is the steady increase in hospitalizations, which reached a near-record high of 1,249 on Nov. 15.
“Based on the data in our state, specifically the rise in hospitalizations, now is the time to do more," Stitt said. “Oklahoma, I need your help. More importantly our doctors, our nurses, our health care professionals and hospitals need your help.”