OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Workers at Oklahoma City restaurants and bars will be required to wear masks after the mayor announced new restrictions Wednesday to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Mayor David Holt said coronavirus hospitalization and infection rates in the state's largest city have been flat in the week since he warned about an alarming spike among people aged 18 to 49. But even those rates, aren't rising, they remain as high as Oklahoma City has seen throughout the pandemic.
“We are stuck at an elevated level that in and of itself is manageable, but puts us right on the edge of an unmanageable situation,” Holt said during a news conference announcing his new executive order.
Mask requirements start Friday, heading into the Fourth of July holiday weekend when crowds are expected to gather to celebrate. Bars also must cut back their capacity to 50%. Patrons won't have to cover their faces.
Holt's restrictions will last for two weeks.
The mayor also ordered that empty seats and rows must be left between groups of people in “theater-style” gatherings. That's to help limit the spread of the virus at indoor events including services at churches and mosques, weddings, funerals and gyms.
Evidence suggests younger people are less susceptible to serious illness and death from COVID-19, but they can spread the disease through their breath or spit to older people or those with weaker immune systems.
State health officials on Wednesday reported 355 more confirmed coronavirus cases and two additional deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the illness.
There are at least 14,112 cases and 389 deaths statewide, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, up from 13,757 cases and 387 deaths reported Tuesday. The actual number of cases is believed to be far higher, but many people haven’t been tested and some who get the disease don’t show symptoms.
The health department reported that there are 374 people hospitalized either with the illness or under investigation for it, an increase from 315 hospitalizations on Tuesday. The state says 10,605 people have recovered.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.