Rep. Pfeiffer: State and local efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19

Members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Republican and Democrat Caucuses met Monday with state Health Commissioner Gary Cox to receive an update on the state’s response to COVID-19 and to get information to share with constituents.

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“The overall goal is to slow the spread of this new virus so people can get the help they need but our health care facilities are not overrun,” Pfeiffer said. “Public safety is paramount. The state Legislature will continue to function to ensure money gets appropriated to stage agencies to continue state services to meet the needs of all Oklahomans.”

The state is receiving more tests and testing more members of the public daily. At the time of this writing, there were 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma and no deaths. The state also is expecting more supplies for hospitals, such as ventilators, masks, gowns and other items.

Health officials are telling people with symptoms – fever, cough, shortness of breath – to self-quarantine until all symptoms are gone if symptoms are mild. Vulnerable seniors or those with significant underlying conditions including heart, lung, kidney disease, diabetes and conditions that suppress the immune system are encouraged to stay away from anyone who could be sick and seek the advice of their doctor if exhibiting symptoms.

Hospital emergency rooms are filling, so health officials ask that only those with severe symptoms or underlying causes seek help in this manner.

The Oklahoma State Health Department has set up a 24/7 call line for people with concerns about the virus. The number is (877) 215-8336.

The White House and the Centers for Disease Control are suggesting people stay out of public gatherings of over 10 people, but Oklahoma municipalities are enforcing their own policies. All public schools in the state are closed until April 6. Many large venues also have canceled events.

Frequent handwashing is advised as is avoiding touching your nose, eyes or mouth. Also ensure that you wash all utensils and clean surfaces regularly.

The House and Senate on Monday also agreed to restrict public access to the state Capitol to elected state officials, essential Capitol staff, credentialed press and only those state employees that are needed for critical meetings. The restrictions are similar to what has been put in place at the U.S. Capitol and other capitol buildings nationwide. Committee meetings and floor sessions will still be available for livestreaming online, and legislation will still be made publicly available.

Both caucuses also agreed to several changes to the way the House will conduct daily floor sessions in the event that they cannot gather as an entire body. This includes allowing members to vote through a proxy designated by each caucus. The House and Senate also voted on a measure that will allow state agency boards and commissions to meet by teleconference.

Pfeiffer stressed that the government is not closed. Lawmakers will continue to work on the state budget and other policy bills, and notice of legislative activity will be provided to the public.

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