“I feel fine. I felt a little bit achy yesterday. I didn’t have a fever,” Stitt said at a Wednesday news conference, adding that he periodically gets tested. “I just want to be transparent with Oklahomans.”
As Oklahoma reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases — a single-day record as average new deaths also increase — Stitt urged residents to get tested if they aren’t feeling well but said he still did not favor a shelter-in-place order or the mask mandates increasingly embraced even by Republican leaders who were initially leery.
Stitt said his state is doing better than others and argued that shutting down again won’t get rid of the virus.
“We also respect people’s rights to stay home if they want, to run their businesses or to not wear a mask,” he said, adding that enforcement of mask orders would be “problematic.” Stitt started recommending late last month that Oklahomans cover their faces in public, according to the Oklahoman.
“You just open a big can of worms,” the governor said Wednesday. “This is a personal responsibility.”
The governor said he is working from home until it’s safe for him to do otherwise. His wife and children have tested negative, he said.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) earlier in the month said he tested negative after several state lawmakers were infected with the virus. Other governors have gotten tested, too, while multiple senators and House representatives have said they tested positive.
Stitt drew fire for downplaying the threat of the virus early in the pandemic, when he resisted recommendations to close schools and restaurants and allowed medical centers to continue elective procedures, even as other hospitals reported shortages of masks and protective equipment.
Then, on March 14, he attracted national attention for tweeting a photo with his family at a “packed” Oklahoma City restaurant — which he later deleted, though a spokesman said afterward that Stitt would keep eating out and “encourages Oklahomans to do the same.”
Stitt drew fresh criticism as Trump’s rally in Tulsa — the president’s first since the pandemic set in — approached in June. Local health officials warned the indoor event at a 19,000-person arena could cause a dangerous spread of the virus in a county that was already seeing a spike in cases.
In the past week, health officials linked the state’s rising number of infections to the June 20 rally, as well as protests against racism.
But Oklahoma Health Commissioner Lance Frye agreed with Stitt on Wednesday that the governor did not get infected at the rally, saying it was “too long ago.”
Oklahoma on Tuesday was among 19 states reporting a seven-day average in deaths more than 40 percent higher than their average a week ago. Rising cases, hospitalizations and more recently deaths in the South and West have increased pressure on governors to consider new or renewed restrictions.
Annie Gowen, Jacqueline Dupree and Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.
Correction: This article previously stated that Stitt in July started recommending Oklahomans wear face masks. In fact, he recommended mask wearing on June 30.