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Kevin Stitt, governor of Oklahoma, exams optimistic for coronavirus

Governor Kevin Stitt (R-OK) speaks during a round table in the State Dining Room of the White House on June 18, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt announced on Wednesday that he had tested positive for coronavirus, making him the first governor since the pandemic to publicly announce a positive diagnosis.

"I was tested on Covid-19 yesterday and the results were positive," Stitt told reporters. "I'm fine; yesterday I felt a bit painful."

The Republican governor said he isolated himself from his family and worked from home. He resisted requests to reset Oklahoma's reopening plans, which will be tested by a virus revival.

"Going back and bunkering in place doesn't remove the virus," said Stitt, adding, "It's far too early to think about slowing down or securing the reopening."

Stitt is one of several republican governors across the country who have been particularly vocal about questioning whether recommendations on corona virus safety from public health experts are really necessary.

During a recent visit to the White House for an event introducing governors who were quickly moving to reopening businesses, Stitt boasted that Oklahoma was one of the first states to reopen. "We have to learn to be safe and keep going," said Stitt.

Later in the month, when the Oklahoma cases appeared a second time, Stitt answered a question about a possible mask mandate by saying, "I always hesitate to commission things."

Rather than taking strict public health measures, Stitt said that Oklahomans "only need to learn how to deal with the deadly corona virus."

The term "learn to live with" has gained popularity during this recent surge in coronavirus cases as a kind of alternative theory to aggressive public health measures.

Repeated by Trump and other republican governors, the phrase reflects a hands-off approach to government intervention aimed at stopping the virus from spreading.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oklahoma had 20,245 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 441 deaths from Covid-19 on Tuesday.

Stitt's diagnosis came a few weeks after President Donald Trump held a controversial rally in Tulsa, where Stitt was photographed without a mask along with thousands of nearby supporters of the president, despite local health officials warning that the event was increasing in Covid could cause -19 transmission.

Herman Cain, another well-known Republican who attended the rally, tested positive for the virus on July 1, less than two weeks later. Two days after his diagnosis, Cain's symptoms became so severe that he was hospitalized. Until Wednesday, the 74-year-old former presidential candidate is apparently still fighting the disease in a hospital near Atlanta.

Cain had posted a photo of himself in the Tulsa arena, surrounded by other participants, none of whom appeared to be wearing masks.

Nationwide, the virus infected 3.35 million Americans, with nearly 59,000 new cases reported on Tuesday. The number of deaths from Covid-19 recently exceeded 135,000, and on Tuesday, 351 Americans died from the virus. These numbers far exceed those of other industrialized nations.

President Donald Trump has played a key role in downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic and putting pressure on governors across the country to reopen their states as soon as possible to minimize economic damage.

Trump is convinced that a full economic recovery will be possible before November if voters choose between the incumbent president and his rival, former vice president Joe Biden. Without an economic recovery, Trump's election prospects look bleak. The latest surveys show that Biden has a significant lead nationally and in swing states.

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