OKLAHOMA CITY — The state Senate Democratic caucus Sunday called on Oklahoma’s governor to implement a more clear and consistent statewide policy to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Absent such action, the state’s hospital bed capacity will be exceeded and overwhelmed before the coronavirus has been contained, Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, wrote in a letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt.
She said the caucus appreciates the governor’s orders directing vulnerable and elderly Oklahomans to stay home, his temporary closure of non-essential businesses in counties with confirmed COVID-19 cases and his efforts to increase the supply of testing kits.
But, it’s time to implement a statewide shelter-in-place policy for all of Oklahoma, she said. She noted that several prominent medical groups already have called for similar restrictions.
“Limiting safer at home measures only to the 40 counties that already have COVID-19 cases will not effectively contain the community transmission of COVID-19,” Floyd said. “We are also concerned that allowing too many business sectors to be classified as essential and exempt from your executive order undercuts its effectiveness.”
A Stitt spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Floyd said since the state recorded its first COVID-19 case March 5, the number has grown exponentially.
As of Sunday morning, there were 429 positive COVID-19 cases in the state, 140 hospitalizations and 16 deaths.
“We understand that adopting a statewide shelter-in-place policy will place a tremendous strain on our state’s businesses and workers, however, combating the COVID-19 pandemic emergency calls for extraordinary efforts and sacrifice,” Floyd wrote. “As Oklahomans, we have always demonstrated a remarkable ability to come together as a community in times of tragedy and disaster. It is the Oklahoma Standard we are so proud of and need now more than ever.”
On Saturday, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued a statewide stay-at-home directive when the state had 267 cases and six deaths.
The State Department of Health, meanwhile, announced Sunday the Stitt administration and Oklahoma hospitals are partnering to develop a plan to increase ICU bed capacity by 40 percent.
Stitt also has requested FEMA begin a survey for additional areas where the state could expand hospital locations to treat COVID-19 patients, the agency said.
Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.