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Schools, casinos shut down in Oklahoma amid virus fears

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(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki File)

Published 03/16/2020 | Reading Time 3 min 5 sec

By Sean Murphy, with the Associated Press 

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Public schools in Oklahoma will be closed through at least April 6 as the state scrambles to contain the spread of the coronavirus, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said Monday.

The State Board of Education met in a special meeting and voted unanimously to authorize the statewide closures.

“It is critical that we do everything in our power to protect the health of our kids, their families, educators and all vulnerable populations,” Hofmeister said in a statement.

Meanwhile, tribal casinos announced plans to shut down across the state on Monday, and legislative leaders said they would limit access to the Capitol to elected officials, essential state workers and working press. The Legislature planned to meet Tuesday and then take the rest of the week off, before reassessing whether to return to work on Monday.

At least 10 people in Oklahoma have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to the state Department of Health. Positive tests have been reported in Canadian, Cleveland, Jackson, Kay, Oklahoma, Payne and Tulsa counties, and health officials said there is evidence of community spread, which is when health officials aren’t sure how or where a person became infected.

“Community spread has been identified in Oklahoma over the weekend, and that was identified in Cleveland County,” said Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart.

The University of Oklahoma reported Sunday that a member of its “Norman campus community” had tested positive and that the university was working with state health officials to track that person’s recent community interactions.

The vast majority of people who contract the virus recover within weeks. It causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but it can lead to more severe illness, including pneumonia, for some patients, especially older adults and people with preexisting health problems.

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More than two dozen Oklahomans who were on a cruise that had a coronavirus outbreak have returned home after being quarantined, Gov. Kevin Stitt said.

Stitt said all 26 Oklahomans who were aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship returned home. They will remain quarantined in their homes for another 14 days and will be monitored by local health officials. The ship with 3,500 passengers was forced to idle off the coast of California after more than 20 people on board were diagnosed with the coronavirus, but Stitt said none of the Oklahoma passengers were exhibiting symptoms.