Oklahoma reopening on track as virus cases near 5,000
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The reopening of Oklahoma businesses will continue Friday with stand-alone bars, funerals, weddings and organized sports activities resuming, according to Gov. Kevin Stitt.
“We continue to have that downward trend in hospitalizations, testing percentage ... we haven’t seen any spikes, we haven’t seen any leading indicators that would look like we’re going to run out of hospital capacity,” Stitt said Thursday.
Oklahoma City’s professional soccer team, Oklahoma Energy FC, has resumed practices, which the United Soccer League allowed this week.
Stitt said the number of hospitalizations has fallen from a peak of 560 in late March to 218 and the percentage of people testing positive for the virus has fallen from 6.3% in late April to 4.8%.
“It is impossible to eliminate this virus from Oklahoma or from any other state. We must accept the fact that COVID-19 will be with us in some way until there’s a vaccine,” Stitt said.
“I think Oklahomans are ready for reopening, I think they’re ready to move into Phase II,” of the reopening plan, Stitt said.
Stitt’s “Safer at Home” order that people 65 and older and the medically vulnerable should stay indoors until the end of May as well as social distancing guidelines remain in place.
The manager of two central Oklahoma funeral homes said the business is ready to resume in-person funerals under restrictions that limit gatherings to 50 or fewer people and sanitation requirements.
Matt Boydstun, funeral director and manager for Memorial Park Funeral Home and Cemetery in Oklahoma City and Baggerley Funeral Home in Edmond said preparations have been underway for at least a week as the reopening became more likely.
“Our chapels have interconnected seats so we’ve taken chapels that seat 80 to 100 or more and reduced them to 50 chairs. We have plenty of cleaning supplies and masks,” Boydstun said Thursday.
Funeral homes and weddings can resume Friday under Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan to reopen businesses in the state, along with stand-alone bars and organized sporting activities.
Funeral homes had provided live streaming and recordings of services and a radio broadcast for those who wanted to listen in their cars in the parking lot, Boydstun said.
“We’re trying to be as creative as possible to give families as close as possible to a typical celebration of life as we can,” Boydstun said.
The number of claims for unemployment compensation, which surged after businesses were closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, have declined.
Initial jobless claims filed for the week ending May 9 total 32,794, about one-third the record number of claims filed the previous week, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported Thursday.
There were 61,091 fewer claims from the previous adjusted week of 93,885, according to the commission.
“It’s too early to consider this week’s numbers a trend,” said Secretary for Digital Transformation David Ostrowe. “We’re hopeful the incredible numbers of job loss and business closures will begin reversing course now that Oklahoma is moving into Phase II of Governor Stitt’s reopening of the state.”
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Oklahoma is nearing 5,000 with six more deaths reported, state officials said Thursday.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 4,962 cases and 284 deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The number of confirmed cases is 110 more than the 4,852 reported by the department on Wednesday.
The number of actual infections is thought to be far higher because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without showing symptoms.
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.