Published 05/23/2020 | Reading Time 4 min 48 secs
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is moving more than 140 healthy inmates from a county jail that reported it was ill-equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Thursday.
Inmates at the Comanche County Detention Center who had two consecutive negative coronavirus tests are being moved to state facilities, the department said.
“Wednesday, ODOC transported 73 negative-testing male inmates,” department spokeswoman Jessica Brown said. “The agency anticipates transporting the remaining 69 healthy county jail inmates (Thursday), including one female.”
“We’re just giving the county more room to quarantine or isolate inmates” and keep those who do not have the virus away from those who have tested positive, according to Brown.
County inmates who have tested positive for the virus will remain quarantined at the jail in Lawton, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southwest of Oklahoma City.
The male inmates were taken to a state facility in Sayre, about 85 miles (140 kilometers) away, while the woman was being taken to McLoud, abut 95 miles (150 kilometers) away. They will remain at the state prisons until at least June 1.
More than 100 of the facility’s approximately 340 inmates and 16 staff at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and testing is ongoing, Brown said.
Two state prison inmates have tested positive for the virus, DOC Director Scott Crow said.
An Oklahoma State Department of Health spokesperson hasn’t returned a phone call seeking comment. There’s been no word of other jails seeking state assistance during the pandemic.
Gov. Kevin Stitt said wearing face masks in an effort to control the spread of the virus is an individual decision.
“If you can remain social distanced, we don’t think you necessarily need to have a mask, but that’s a personal preference,” Stitt said during a Wednesday news conference.
Stitt, who was not wearing a mask, also was unmasked during a May 4 visit by Arkansas-based Dillard’s Department store executives Bill Dillard II and Bill Dillard III to mark the reopening of the store in Oklahoma City.
Both Dillards starting out wearing masks but eventually removed them.
The visit came days after malls, restaurants and other stores were allowed to reopen.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Thursday reported that at least 5,680 people have tested positive for the virus and 304 have died, up from 5,532 cases and 299 deaths reported Wednesday.
The actual number of those infected is thought to be much higher because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can have the disease without showing symptoms.
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.
The number of initial jobless claims filed with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission declined for the week ending March 16.
The number of unadjusted initial claims totaled 23,880, down by 15,199 from the previous week’s adjusted claims of 39,079, which was revised up by 6,285 from the initially reported total of 32,794, according to the OESC.
Thursday’s report comes after dozens of people rallied at the state Capitol on Monday, complaining that their state unemployment claims weren’t being processed.
“It’s good to see the numbers declining even though initial claims for unemployment remain at historic levels,” said Secretary for Digital Transformation David Ostrowe.
The number of claims for unemployment compensation surged after businesses were closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. A record 93,885 adjusted jobless claims were filed earlier this month.