Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt announced during a virtual press conference on Wednesday that he has tested positive for coronavirus.
Stitt is believed to be the first United States governor to be diagnosed with the infection. The governor said he “feels fine,” adding that his immediate family members have all tested negative for COVID-19.
It’s possible that the governor may have transmitted the disease to others. Stitt’s results came back to him on Tuesday afternoon, but on Tuesday morning, he had been in a meeting with officials at Oklahoma’s Commissioners of the Land Office, where he reportedly did not wear a mask or facial covering.
Oklahoma has seen a dramatic rise in the number of COVID-19 cases reported in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the state set a single-day record for the most cases recorded in a 24-hour period, with 993 cases coming back positive.
According to Johns Hopkins University’s tracking of coronavirus cases in Oklahoma, the current seven-day average of coronavirus tests coming back positive is at 8.6 percent. On June 20, when President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Tulsa, the seven-day average rate was at 5.5 percent.
Many, including some city health leaders, were critical of Trump for holding an indoors campaign event with little-to-no social distancing rules enforced. But days before the rally took place, Stitt had claimed that the decision to hold the rally in Oklahoma was based on his state being a “national example in responsibly and safely reopening” amid the coronavirus pandemic, without any evidence to back that claim.
Members of the Trump administration had also touted Oklahoma as seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases at the time. However, those assertions were false — cases were actually on the rise before Trump came to the city, and have continued to go up since that time.
Stitt was in attendance at the Trump rally in Tulsa last month. However, the likelihood that he contracted the disease from that event is low, as it was about a month ago, a point that Oklahoma Health Commissioner Lance Frye made clear. However, there appears to be a correlation between the Trump rally and the increase in the spread of COVID infections in that state.
“As far as where he became infected, it’s really unknown,” Frye said at the same press conference that Stitt announced his diagnosis.
Even though he tested positive for coronavirus, Stitt remained steadfast in his belief that a statewide order for residents to wear masks was not necessary to help quell the disease’s spread.
“We respect people’s rights … to not wear a mask,” Stitt said at the press conference.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has repeatedly made strong recommendations to all Americans to wear cloth masks or facial coverings as a means to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting.