Gov. Kevin Stitt made a stop in Guthrie yesterday to speak to locals.
Among those in attendance were Rep. Garry Mize, along with a who’s who of Guthrie, including Mayor Steve Gentling, School Superintendent Dr. Mike Simpson, Logan County Sheriff Damon Devereaux and Guthrie Police Chief Don Sweger.
Stitt spoke for approximately 15 minutes, speaking about COVID-19 relief and how important it is for Oklahomans to fill out their census before taking questions from the crowd.
Stitt started the event by thanking Rep. Mize for his attendance.
“Your representative does a fantastic job,” Stitt said. “He’s only been there for a couple years now, but he is an up and coming leader in the House (of Representatives) and just truly respected, and so I lean on him a lot and call on him.”
Stitt focused on virus relief for much of the talk. His tone was hopeful and proud, as he touched on measures he took to minimize the damage the virus did to Oklahoma.
“I believe Oklahomans have done really well with the COVID fight,” Stitt said. “Remember back in March, the epidemiologists were telling us we were going to have 5,000 people in the hospital in April, and so I issued about 30 different executive orders.”
Stitt said he believed what did the state the most good was focusing on the elderly.
“We were one of nine states that never did a shelter-in-place, we focused on our most vulnerable, our over-65 (years old) population, and we said they were safer at home,” Stitt said, “And I think that’s proved to be the correct decision.”
Stitt has been criticized for some of his response measures in the past, but he touted that Oklahoma has “flattened the curve” when it comes to hospitalizations. He cited numbers from March to make a point that serious cases are not growing in numbers.
“If you fast-forward to today, we have flattened the curve,” Stitt said. “On March 30th, we had 560 people in the hospital. Yesterday, we had 561. I know we want to get that down to zero to be treated, but that is an absolute flat curve, even though we’ve been fully reopened with no restrictions since June 1.”
However, Stitt emphasized that one of his highest priorities right now is to keep children in school. He stated that he believes it should be one of America’s priorities as well.
“I tell people, ‘Listen, educating our children is a non-negotiable for me, and also is protecting the lives and health of Oklahomans,’” Stitt said. “We have to figure out how to do that in a safe way, because I don’t believe it’s practical to have zero cases in our states. We have to figure out how to be safe, how to innovate, how to get our kids back in school, and that’s been our focus here in the past few months, as we put resources into our schools. We put 10 million (dollars) towards PPD for our teachers, our children. A lot of distant learning, we learn from anywhere, so we’ve put a lot of resources into our school children and our business community.”
When the crowd was able to ask questions, Mayor Gentling emphasized that the Mercy hospital is “fighting dearly to hang on,” and asked Gov. Stitt what the state could facilitate as far as access to rural healthcare in the future. Stitt’s response was that he had just reluctantly helped to pass Medicaid expansion due to the immediacy of its relief, despite wanting to implement SoonerCare 2.0.
“I tried to roll out SoonerCare 2.0 because I believe we needed more federal dollars into our system, but I didn’t want to put it into our Constitution,” Stitt said. “So, there’s a ballot initiative that everybody voted on, and it passed by about 6,000 votes, and so Medicaid expansion is now in our Constitution. I believe that was the wrong way to do it, however, it’s now law, and so now we’ve got to roll that out.”