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Oklahoma governor defends plan to reopen businesses

April 26, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this Wednesday, April 22, 2020, file photom Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announces in Oklahoma City, plans to reopen Oklahoma businesses after closures due to the coronavirus outbreak. Stitt’s announcement this week that he planned to reopen barbershops, hair salons, spas and pet groomers as early as Friday was immediately panned by the Oklahoma State Medical Association, whose president called it “hasty at best.” (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, FIle)
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FILE - In this Wednesday, April 22, 2020, file photom Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announces in Oklahoma City, plans to reopen Oklahoma businesses after closures due to the coronavirus outbreak. Stitt’s announcement this week that he planned to reopen barbershops, hair salons, spas and pet groomers as early as Friday was immediately panned by the Oklahoma State Medical Association, whose president called it “hasty at best.” (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, FIle)
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FILE - In this Wednesday, April 22, 2020, file photom Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announces in Oklahoma City, plans to reopen Oklahoma businesses after closures due to the coronavirus outbreak. Stitt’s announcement this week that he planned to reopen barbershops, hair salons, spas and pet groomers as early as Friday was immediately panned by the Oklahoma State Medical Association, whose president called it “hasty at best.” (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, FIle)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Sunday defended his plans to reopen businesses in the state, saying signs point to the coronavirus threat decreasing as long as people take the proper precautions in public.

Stitt said on Fox News that trends, including hospitalizations, are going down and that “we think it’s a reasonable time to reopen.”

Barber shops and hair salons in cities without stricter restrictions were among businesses that were allowed to reopen Friday under health and social distancing guidelines. Churches and restaurants, meanwhile, will be allowed to reopen May 1 under those guidelines and if the trends continue downward, although church nurseries and restaurant bars will remain closed.

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“March 30th we had — we peaked at hospitalizations with 560 across the state. Today we have 300 across the state in our hospitals. And so we think it’s time for a measured reopening,” he said.

Stitt said the state has 4,600 total hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, if needed.

The governor’s decision came despite the continued spread of the disease in Oklahoma. Health officials said Sunday that confirmed COVID-19 case had surpassed 3,200 in Oklahoma and that at least 195 people had died of the disease, including one new death. The actual number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest that people can be infected without feeling sick.

Dr. George Monks, who heads the Oklahoma State Medical Association, has said the governor’s plan “is hasty at best” while health care providers are still treating the infected.

Stitt said he doesn’t “know exactly who (Monks) is, but the department of health head in our state is Gary Cox, and we have followed all of the White House guidelines. ... And the facts are, we have been on a steady decline since March 30th in hospitalizations,” leading to the decision to begin reopening businesses.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

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Check out more of the AP’s coronavirus coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak