Gov. Kevin Stitt said one of Oklahoma's four COVID-19 mobile testing sites expected to be set up this week will be in McAlester.
The Oklahoma governor announced during a press conference Sunday night that he anticipates four mobile testing sites to be set up this week in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Ponca City and McAlester.
Stitt also announced a statewide task force created to address the spread of COVID-19 and said he will not force closures of establishments like bars or restaurants.
"At this time we're following Centers for Disease Control guidelines and that is to stop groups of 10 or more people, and that is what I'm going to preach," Stitt said. "The question is, when you shut something down, when does it come back? This could go on for a while.
"This could be our new normal, and we've got to think about how we deliver services," he added.
Global data from the World Health Organization shows 350,000 confirmed cases, 15,000 deaths and 100,000 recovered patients of the coronavirus as of Monday.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 81 positive coronavirus cases and two deaths as of Monday morning. None were reported in Pittsburg County as of Monday morning.
Regional Health Department Director Juli Montgomery said the Pittsburg County Health Department had 19 specimen collection kits as of Friday evening. McAlester Regional Health Center officials said the facility started with 250 test kits and sent samples to be tested as of Sunday.
On Friday, the OSDH partnered with a facility allowing 300 specimens to be shipped immediately for testing and increased capacity for delivering results.
On Saturday, the governor amended an executive order to allow labs at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University to conduct coronavirus testing.
Dr. Kayse Shrum, Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Innovation, said at the press conference the labs should be capable of testing within a week and could be able to test 10,000 Oklahomans for COVID-19.
"That means we should be able to expand out testing capability by 10-fold by the end of the week," Shrum said.
Although the virus typically causes mild or moderate symptoms and the majority of patients recover within weeks, it can lead to more severe illnesses, especially among elderly with preexisting health conditions.
Those who think they have COVID-19 symptoms should call their primary care provider, per state and federal guidelines. Samples are collected from potential patients, then sent to a testing lab.
Stitt also said Sunday night he has four goals in handling the pandemic: 1) protect the health and lives of Oklahomans, 2) mitigate the impact to Oklahoma's economy, 3) position the state to fully recover as quickly as possible; and 4) continue striving to become a top 10 state.
He called churches and business innovative in their efforts to prevent spread of the coronavirus by using contactless, curbside, online and delivery services.
Oklahoma Secretary of Health Jerome Loughridge urged citizens to continue social distancing and staying home when possible.
"If we're not being safe, no one is," Loughridge said. "If you must go out, be mindful and aware of your risk and your role in stopping spread of the disease."
Stitt also announced the development of the "Governor’s Solution Task Force."
A press release from Stitt's office said it is "a multiagency group of experts and support personnel to enhance Oklahoma’s comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Secretary of Agency Accountability and Chief Operating Officer John Budd, Chief of Staff Michael Junk and Secretary of State and Education Michael Rogers will lead the task force.
Loughridge, Interim State Epidemiologist Dr. Aaron Wendelboe and Brigadier General Tommy Mancino, Assistant Adjutant General of the Oklahoma National Guard, will lead a planning team.
“This group will allow our state’s leaders to focus their efforts on the areas they know best,” Stitt said in the release. “Their expertise will help us form a comprehensive response to COVID-19 and allow the Oklahoma State Department of Health and Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management to have additional support and resources.”
Contact Adrian O'Hanlon III at firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated as of noon March 23, 2020.