We know you have questions related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Oklahoma, and we’re doing our best to get you answers.
Today we launched our Oklahoma Coronavirus News group on Facebook. The group is meant to foster discussion during the pandemic and to serve as a place for Oklahomans to get reliable information as the situation unfolds.
We asked you for your questions and you responded by sending us dozens. Here are the answers we were able to track down.
Is testing approval through an epidemiologist going to continue? Are there new protocols being put in place?
Originally, approval by a state epidemiologist was required in order for a COVID-19 test to be ordered, though the Oklahoma State Department of Health loosened those restrictions on Friday.
But now, as the virus is growing more widespread, and more tests are slowly becoming available, epidemiologist approval is no longer needed. However, physicians are still being asked to prioritize patients to ensure the current supply of tests is not exhausted.
Where can patients be tested other than a hospital?
Any physician can collect a sample, but the tests must be completed by either the Oklahoma State Department of Health or one of the handful of private labs across Oklahoma.
How long can someone be an asymptomatic carrier?
Officials disagree on the seriousness of asymptomatic carriers. Though almost all believe it’s possible to pass on the virus while not exhibiting symptoms yourself, there’s disagreement on the likelihood of that happening.
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University, told CNN that “asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic transmission are a major factor” in the spread of COVID-19.
Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infections Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said “We now know that asymptomatic transmission likely plays an important role in spreading this virus.”
Generally, the younger you are, the less likely you are to be symptomatic, health officials have said, though that doesn’t hold true in all cases.
Is it possible to get re-infected?
During a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention press briefing last month, Seattle, Wash., Dr. Jeff Duchin said that he was wary of reports from other countries of patients becoming re-infected with COVID-19. A report from China last month said that more than 10 percent of the country’s patients that had tested positive for COVID-19 had recovered, only to become re-infected.
Duchin said he believed it was more likely that the virus had never fully left the patient’s body. Additionally, Dr. Nancy Messonier, the director of the CDC’s national immunization and respiratory diseases center, said the CDC had not seen any re-infections in the United States.
Which Counties have put moratoriums on evictions?
Tulsa County Presiding Judge William Lafortune announced a two-week moratorium on the Forcible Entry and Detainer dockets.
In Oklahoma County, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Mark Myers said discussions had taken place about halting the eviction process, but that they would continue for the time being.
“If a judge issues an order and we don’t enforce it, we are in contempt of court,” Myers said.
Myers they are canceling foreclosure Sheriff’s Sales until May 14.
Will the state election board consider postponing upcoming elections?
“The April 7 school board elections are required by statute and there is no provision in the law allowing for a statutory election to be cancelled or postponed, said State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax.
Voters who wish to vote by mail can do so by requesting a “no excuse” absentee ballot through the OK Voter Portal at www.elections.ok.gov/ovp.
Tulsa County Election Board secretary Gwen Freeman said a conference call with the state election board is scheduled for Tuesday that may shed some light on what will happen as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
“I’m hoping to find out more then,” Freeman said. She said that the last conversation about upcoming elections was prior to Gov. Kevin Stitt declaring a state of emergency, something that may have changed the equation a bit for local governmental agencies.
In the meantime Freeman is encouraging absentee voting for voters who are uneasy about traveling to a public voting location.
Freeman said to vote in the upcoming April 7 school board and municipal election, voters must have an absentee ballot application into the election board by April 1. A completed absentee ballot has to be filled out, notarized and delivered back to the election board by 7 p.m. on election day.
Who is keeping track of price gouging?
When President Donald Trump announced on Friday a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, it triggered Oklahoma’s anti-price gouging law.
Alex Gerszewski, spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, told The Frontier there had been 21 complaints to the AG’s office price gouging hotline as of Monday. Gerszewski said that many complaints in a weekend was unusually high, so agents have been reaching out to the businesses to find out why someone is accusing them of price gouging.
No charges have been filed yet. He said investigations at times also end in out-of-court mediation as well.
What happens to hourly school employees during a school shutdown?
Emma Garret-Nelson, spokeswoman for Tulsa Public Schools, said TPS was “paying everyone through April 3.”
The Oklahoma State Department of Education announced on Monday statewide school closures through April 6.
“This closure will allow us time to further understand how COVID-19 is affecting Oklahoma and give students and staff a period of time to be protected from further community spread of the virus,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said.
When will tribes close the casinos? Will employees be paid?
Cherokee Nation announced it was closing its casinos and hotels through the end of the month. The closure begins at midnight on Monday. All casino employees will be paid, according to Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.