Gov. Stitt imposes new COVID-19 rules, plans to work with White House

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt announced new COVID-19 regulations Monday after weeks of surging cases, deaths and hospitalizations in Oklahoma.

Stitt, Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye and state leaders held a news conference to announce the new regulations after the state saw daily increases of 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 new cases over the last two weeks, and more than 1,000 hospitalized at one time in the state.

Governor Stitt is giving an update on the state's response to COVID-19

Governor Stitt is giving an update on the COVID-19 situation in Oklahoma MORE:

Posted by FOX23 News on Monday, November 16, 2020

New rules for restaurants and bars

Stitt imposed an executive ordering all bars and restaurants to close daily by 11 p.m. starting Thursday.

Drive-through and carryout will still be allowed after that time.

Stitt said Monday he’s asking restaurants to space tables at least six feet apart but isn’t making it a requirement.

The only other requirement Stitt laid out on Monday was a mask mandate for state employees in state-owned buildings

No changes coming for schools

Stitt said he wants to see most children and college students back physically in the classroom when Winter Break is over in January.

Stitt told reporters that between parental concerns and some data he’s seen out of the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention about the pandemic’s effects on children’s mental health, he is concerned about the long-term effects COVID-19 is having on children’s development and mental health.

Stitt said, as a father of school-aged children himself, what he read about mental health impacts were disturbing to him as a parent, and he wanted to try to do what he could to reverse what he feared was something that could create long term damage to a child’s brain being away from a school setting.

When asked about how he planned to get all districts back to in-person learning in January, the governor said everyone needs to partake in mitigation efforts to slow the rate of infection in the state so most if not all children can safely return back to the classroom in early next year.

Stitt said he will not force a district to go back to in-person learning and that he does support local control, but he wants to lay out a path forward that includes slowing the spread of COVID-19 to the point where in-person learning is possible again at districts statewide.

He said he would not issue sanctions, penalties, or punishments to districts that did not have children back in the classroom in January, but rather it was presented as a goal for all Oklahomans to do their part now so life can begin to return to normal hopefully in a couple of months.

The governor said he was bothered to find out some students have not been in an actual school building since last March.

The announcement also comes as many districts in the Tulsa metro area were transitioning back to at-home learning techniques as districts were seeing increase COVID-19 cases within their schools.

Working with the White House

When asked by FOX23′s Rick Maranon if his office was planning to work with President Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force and President-elect Joe Biden’s Coronavirus Team that he is forming now, Stitt said he will work with whoever is actually president.

“We will keep working with President Trump, and when January 20 comes, we’ll work with whoever is in there at that time,” Stitt said.

With many Oklahomans continuing to take to street corners and being upset about the 2020 Presidential Race being called for former Vice President Joe Biden, FOX23 wanted to see how Stitt was weighing current political sentiment with the possibility of both Trump’s and Biden’s team calling his office to work on Coronavirus policy.

FOX23 has reported at some point the Biden Coroanvirus Team plans to reach out to governors to begin crafting a national policy to address the pandemic.

Stitt, who has a relationship with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, did not say who he thought would be in the White House on Jan. 20 but only said he’ll deal with and plan with whoever is in the building and has the power to actually run a task force that can get something done.

For now, Stitt will stick to planning and communicating with the Trump White House.

Why the change?

Stitt cited the rising coronavirus numbers we’ve seen this month compared to the last five months where he says the state has stayed “flat.”

Virus numbers according to the Oklahoma State Health Department have been increasing since June when the state began reopening.

The state has repeatedly refuted the effectiveness of a mask mandate.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.