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Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt Tests Positive for Coronavirus

2020-07-15 23:41:31
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Mr. Stitt said he was tested for the virus on Tuesday but it was unclear what time. Asked why he had not worn a mask at the morning Land Office meeting, Mr. Stitt said he has since notified the two people he sat closest to, Mr. Pinnell and Blayne Arthur, the state agriculture secretary, that he had tested positive for the virus.

“Those two were probably six feet away from me,” Mr. Stitt said.

Photographs of the meeting show Mr. Stitt sitting at the head of a conference table, with the lieutenant governor leaning in to his immediate left and the agriculture secretary to his right. Mr. Stitt appears to be sitting closer than six feet to them. Paul Monies, a reporter for Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit online news outlet, covered the meeting, and said it looked to him as if the governor at times could have been closer than six feet.

Mr. Monies tested positive for the virus after covering the president’s rally in Tulsa, and had recently returned to work. He said that although he was wearing a mask at the meeting, he is now considering getting tested again.

“It was my first in-person meeting back from quarantine,” Mr. Monies said.

Oklahoma was among the first states to reopen its economy, with stores, barbershops and salons opening back up on April 24. At the time, the state had just 3,100 cases. New infections were holding steady — with an average of 94 new cases a day — but not on a sustained decrease, the path that is recommended by public health experts before reopening.

Restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and houses of worship were allowed to reopen shortly afterward, on May 1. Bars — a known source of new infections across the country — reopened on May 15.

By early June, there were signs of worrisome spread. On June 12, Oklahoma surpassed more than 200 new confirmed daily cases for the first time. A little more than a month later, the state has recorded more than 21,000 cases, and the positive test rate is about 8.5 percent, among the highest in months.

Mr. Stitt has been slow to embrace measures recommended by public health experts, such as issuing stay-at-home orders and mandating face coverings in public. While he shut down businesses in the state this spring, he is among a handful of governors who never issued formal orders for residents to stay at home during the pandemic, and he only recently encouraged Oklahomans to wear masks.

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