Two staff members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, according to House senior advisory for policy and communications John Estus.
“Two House employees tested positive for COVID-19 this week following private lab testing performed at the Capitol on March 17 after a Senate employee tested positive,” Estus said. “The [Oklahoma State Department of Health] is investigating interactions the two employees have had under the department’s standard protocols for individuals who test positive.”
Earlier today, the Senate announced that Sen. Paul Rosino (R-OKC) had tested positive after feeling ill March 15. Rosino said he did not return to the Capitol, instead following instructions to contact his primary care provider. Learning that a Senate staff member had tested positive, the health care provider began the testing process on Rosino.
Estus said the Senate staff member’s diagnosis also spurred some testing within the House of Representatives.
Oklahoma Sen. Paul Rosino tests positive for COVID-19 by Tres Savage
“Upon being contacted March 17 by the testing provider, the House identified a small, at-risk group to test that totaled less than 50 of the House’s more than 250 members and staff,” Estus said. “All of those test results are back, and there were no other positive tests.”
Both chambers of the Legislature contracted with a private company to pursue testing, which was processed out of state. Earlier today, Health and Human Services Secretary Jerome Loughridge said that not all senators and staff members received tests.
Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) released a statement about the House situation.
“All Oklahomans affected by this virus need everyone’s support, prayers and attention,” McCall said. “These employees have our full support during this time. This virus can affect anyone anywhere, which is why the Legislature took swift, unprecedented steps last week to protect ourselves and the public from further risk at this time.”
Access to the Capitol has been limited since March 16, and the Legislature has temporarily changed the rules for public meetings in the state to expand allowances for teleconferencing. State lawmakers are currently adjourned indefinitely from the legislative session, which must be completed with a balanced state budget by May 29.
New restrictions as numbers grow
At 2 p.m. this afternoon, Gov. Kevin Stitt held a press conference announcing a statewide shelter-in-place policy that applies to the elderly and the immunocompromised. Asked about rumors at least one Oklahoma House staff member had tested positive, the governor said he was unaware.
“I have no knowledge of that,” he said. “I couldn’t comment on any specifics of who has tested positive.”
Among his other actions announced today, Stitt issued an order to limit the operations of socially driven businesses in counties where there are confirmed cases of the virus. He also announced a statewide order suspending non-urgent and non-emergent medical services and banning visits to nursing homes and other longterm care facilities.
At his Tuesday press conference, Still also confirmed that there are now 109 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, spread over 19 counties. This represents more than a 30 percent increase over Monday’s count of 81.
Earlier in the morning, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported the state’s third death resulting from the disease: a Cleveland County woman in her 60s, whose identity was not disclosed.