OKLAHOMA CITY (UPI) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has announced the state will begin to ease staunch measures implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus from Friday with aims to reopen its economy by June.
During a press conference Wednesday, Stitt said the state planned to enter phase one of a three-phase plan to reopen Oklahoma’s economy, which first began to shutter with Stitt signing a Declaration of Emergency in mid-March.
“Let me be clear: We will do this safely, responsibly and based on the data within our state,” he said.
From Friday, personal care businesses, such as hair salons and barbershops, will be allowed to operate by appointment only, and state parks and outdoor recreation areas will be reopened to the public. Then on May 1, restaurants, sporting venues and places of entertainment, such as movie theaters, may reopen along with gyms and places of worship as long as they adhere to social distancing and sanitation guidelines.
Phase 2 will begin on May 15 when bars will be able to operate with diminished standing-room occupancy.
Phase 3 will begin June 1 if hospital and incident rates “remain at a manageable level” for more than two weeks, and further details about the reopening will be available at that time, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce detailed in the plan.
“This statewide approach is based on the data from our public health experts, is intended to mitigate risk of a resurgence and protects Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens from the threat of COVID-19,” Stitt explained on Twitter.
However, the plan was met with swift criticism from across the aisle as Oklahoma House minority leader Emily Virgin said the Republican governor was acting from “a place of fear” and that he shouldn’t make any hasty decisions.
She said Oklahoma does not meet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for states to reopen and that they have failed to administer proper testing or tracing to ensure that they do meet those reopening requirements.
“Reopening without proper data and against the scientific community puts Oklahoma workers in a dangerous position to have to choose between their safety and their job,” she said in a statement. “We urge the governor to reconsider until better data is available.”
The state recorded its first coronavirus infection on March 6. Since then, the Oklahoma State Department of Health has reported nearly 2,900 infections.
Reporting by Darryl Coote
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