OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Some businesses that were closed in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus will be allowed to reopen this week and others can reopen within 10 days, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said Wednesday.
The governor's plan was met with immediate resistance from the Oklahoma State Medical Association and Democrats in the state House of Representatives.
Stitt's plan begins Friday, when barbershops, hair and nail salons, pet groomers and spas can reopen. The move is contingent on businesses practicing social distancing, and employees and customers must wear masks if they are within six feet of each other.
"Personal care businesses can reopen for appointments only if they adhere to strict sanitation protocols and are in communities that do not have more restrictions in place," Stitt said.
Restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and places of worship can reopen May 1. Nurseries tied to places of worship will remain closed.
State Medical Association President Dr. George Monks said the governor is moving too fast.
"We are concerned Gov. Stitt's plan to reopen the state is hasty at best," while health care providers are still treating the infected, Monks said in a statement.
"To increase the danger of widespread infection by opening prematurely not only discounts their efforts, but also the sacrifices made by their loved ones," Monks said.
Stitt's plan "comes from a place of fear," according to House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, a Democrat.
"It is understandable for him to be worried about the long-term economic effects of this pandemic," Virgin said. "However, in this time of uncertainty, it is crucial not to make decisions hastily and out of fear but out of fact."
Stitt, a Republican, said he's confident the businesses can reopen because the number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, are on the decline, as well as daily tallies of new positive cases.
"We had 560 people in hospitals on March 30," Stitt said "and we've had a nice slow decline since then." He said 298 people are currently hospitalized with the virus and there are 4,600 hospital beds available statewide in case there is a surge in demand.
If hospitalizations and incident rates remain within the state's ability to manage a surge in cases until May 15, bars can reopen and funerals and weddings will be allowed to resume, while a non-essential travel recommendation will be lifted. However, the elderly and vulnerable will still be subject to Stitt's Safer at Home order.
Stitt said if hospitalizations and incident rates continue to be manageable for another 14 days after that, an unspecified new phase of reopenings would be announced.
At least nearly 2,900 people in the state have been confirmed with the coronavirus, and at least 170 have died, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Wednesday, up from about 2,800 cases an 164 deaths Tuesday.
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.
More than one-third of Oklahoma's COVID-19 deaths, 61 in all, have been residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities, according to Health Department data.