Oklahoma House Democrats are gathering outside the state capitol at 11 a.m. Tuesday to call the house to enter a special session, urging the governor to implement a state-wide mask mandate, after a record-setting spike in cases this weekend.
Then at 2 p.m., Governor Kevin Stitt and health leaders will update the state on the COVID-19 situation.
The House Minority Leader Emily Virgin said in a statement, “Earlier this year, the Legislature felt it prudent to have legislation to protect public bodies and ensure they could continue to operate without fear of spreading COVID-19,” Virgin said. “As this pandemic continues to grow in Oklahoma, it is common sense that we would extend this exemption and protect the lives of Oklahomans. At this juncture, we need to increase our defenses not put them down.”
Health leaders said a couple-hundred cases counted in this weekend’s surge were due to a backlog. The corrected number, 4,507 still shows COVID-19 cases are rising.
A surge in cases also means an impact on hospitals. Some hospitals in Oklahoma said they’re starting to put off non-emergency procedures to make room for patients.
“Physicians will be making those calls along with the hospitals to say, ‘what waits?’ and ‘what happens now?’” said Pattie Davis, the President of The Oklahoma Hospital Association.
Interim Health Commissioner Lance Frye told reporters they are considering a broader suspension of non-emergency surgeries, but they don’t want to overreach.
“Some of the hospitals are already starting to do that themselves,” said the interim commissioner. “Which is really what we want to happen, we want them to manage it.”
The hospital association said delaying medical care could cause longer-term health problems for patients and hurt hospitals financially.
You can watch Governor Stitt’s response update live on-air and on the News 9 app.