Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said Wednesday he had tested positive for coronavirus, and was believed to be the first governor to have contracted the highly contagious virus as the pandemic spreads across the US.
“I personally get tested periodically throughout this whole thing,” Stitt said during a news conference updating residents on the virus, the Oklahoman reported.
“I got tested yesterday for COVID-19 and the results came back positive.”
Stitt, a 47-year-old father of six, said he was feeling “fine” but had minor body aches on Tuesday.
The revelation came as Oklahoma saw a surge of coronavirus cases.
State officials said four additional people had died, bringing the total to 428, and that there were 546 people who are hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of the virus.
Stitt, a Republican, has faced criticism for not doing more to respond to the state’s growing number of positive cases and hospitalizations, the paper reported.
He encouraged Oklahomans to wear face masks in public when social distancing was not possible, but rarely wears a mask in public himself.
The revelation came a day after Democratic state Rep. Jason Lowe called on Stitt to issue a mask mandate after the Oklahoma Department of Health reported Tuesday that almost 1,000 more people tested positive for coronavirus, according to Fox25 TV in Oklahoma City.
“As a COVID-19 survivor, seeing the rapid rise in cases is alarming. Oklahomans must know that the pandemic is far from over and that we still must do what we can to protect ourselves and our community,” Lowe said.
He commended the mayors of Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman for taking steps to enact a mask mandate in public spaces and private businesses and believed the state should do the same.
“In order to limit the spread of COVID-19, we must follow the directives of the CDC and our healthcare professionals, all of which who advocate for the widespread use of masks. Matters of public health should never be partisan. I urge Governor Stitt to follow in the steps of fellow governors and put the health and safety of Oklahomans first and mandate that masks be worn in public spaces and private businesses,” he said.
Stitt has said that he has no plans to issue a mask mandate for Oklahoma.
President Trump staged a rally in Tulsa last month, and even though attendance was sparse, local health officials have linked it to a spike of cases in the region, and eight Trump campaign officials tested positive just prior to the event.
Nationally, there are more than 3.3 million confirmed cases in the US, and more than 135,000 people have died, according to the CDC.