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Oklahoma tribal leaders call for statewide shelter-in-place

10 April 2020

(PRESS RELEASE) -- Below is the statement to Governor Stitt.

"Dear Governor Stitt:

The reality of the coronavirus pandemic calls on all of us to act decisively and in service to the public interest. As you, we have taken decisive steps to protect Oklahomans from the virus. We have each, for example, closed our public operations, including our Tribal government gaming operations and hospitality venues. We have done this to limit public gatherings that would otherwise help the virus to spread, and we have done this confident our actions are saving lives.

Our temporary closures, of course, shut off the Tribal government revenues with which we provide programs and services to our citizens and pay our thousands of employees. We did this to help contain the virus and save lives, which is more important than temporary economic disruption. We have also gone further, utilizing precious resources to continue our programs, services, and payrolls for as long as possible so we can help our citizens and employees weather these difficult times. In taking these actions, we have been guided by our belief that the surest path to containing the virus’s comprehensive challenge is to take it seriously and act on the measures broadly recommended by public health experts.

The Trump Administration has emphasized that the time to act is upon us. The coming weeks will be particularly challenging as the virus moves toward its peak across the country. We also know too many Oklahomans suffer from underlying health concerns that leave them uniquely susceptible to the worst of the virus and that too many, particularly in our rural areas, have limited access to good health care. When we can protect others, we believe we must do so.

In affirming your declaration of a statewide public health emergency, the Oklahoma Legislature recently entrusted you with significant temporary powers to protect Oklahomans from the risks posed by COVID-19. In this pivotal moment and with the needs of all Oklahomans in mind, we urge you to use these powers and go further than the present order, and to issue a full and statewide shelter-in-place order. As the experience in other states and countries shows and as broadly recommended by public health experts, this is the surest path to containing the virus’s public health risk and to limit its longer-term social disruptions.

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