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Lynda Parker, of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, talks with health-care workers before they begin their shift at a mobile COVID-19 testing site at State Fair Park, Thursday, April 2, 2020, in Oklahoma City. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Published 04/02/2020 | Reading Time 2 min 28 sec
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt called Thursday for a special session of the Legislature as part of his declaration of a health emergency in all 77 counties.
Declaring a health emergency gives the governor broader powers to coordinate the state’s response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, including the ability to waive some statutory or regulatory requirements, said Stitt spokesman Charlie Hannema. State law requires the Legislature to convene within two business days to either concur with or terminate the health emergency, so the Legislature is expected to convene at 8 a.m. Monday.“Now is the time to align all public health entities in the state as we work together to prepare for a surge in demand on our hospitals,” Stitt said in a statement. “This will allow us to coordinate resources and ensure all Oklahomans have the best access to the medical care they need.”
Under Stitt’s order, the state’s Commissioner of Health Gary Cox is authorized as the primary public health authority.
Oklahoma has at least 879 cases and 34 deaths due to COVID-19, health officials announced on Thursday, and those numbers are expected to rise sharply over the next month. There is at least one confirmed case in 52 of the state’s 77 counties.
On Wednesday, Stitt extended his “Safer At Home” order until April 30 and included all 77 counties, rather than just those with a confirmed case. The order requires non-essential businesses to shut down and the elderly and medically vulnerable to stay indoors.
For most people, the new 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, or death.