Documents show Residents urged Stitt to impose lockdowns

Mike Seals - March 14, 2021 10:56 pm

By SEAN MURPHY

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — As the coronavirus swept across Oklahoma and the nation last spring, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office was inundated with correspondence from frightened residents seeking stricter lockdowns to control the spread of the virus.

“We can bring back lost jobs. We can re-strengthen the economy. We cannot, however, regain the lives of those we have already lost and will continue to lose if we fail to get this right,” Tulsa resident Nate Morris wrote in an April 2020 letter to Stitt signed by 1,200 people.

At the same time, the governor was also weighing requests from dozens of business leaders asking him to make sure their businesses stayed open. The Associated Press reviewed nearly 9,000 documents released by the governor’s office in response to an open records request that show the delicate balance Stitt and his team tried to walk during the early stages of the pandemic.

Real estate agents, banks, manufacturers and firearms distributors were among those who asked the governor to make sure their businesses stayed open. Even a filmmaker seeking to shoot a movie in Oklahoma reached out to the governor to make sure the state’s COVID restrictions wouldn’t disrupt the production.

“We look forward to shooting the Reagan film in your state,” producer Mark Joseph wrote in a March 8 letter to Stitt. “Our start date is May 11 but I’d like to talk to you about what measures can be taken to assure that we don’t experience any delays because of the coronavirus.”

Production of the film ultimately was halted temporarily after multiple people on the set tested positive for COVID-19.

The AP specifically sought communications between the governor’s office, state health officials, cities, counties, medical groups and business and industry organizations to gauge how Stitt’s office developed policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In response, Stitt’s office provided the AP with about 9,000 documents that included everything from generic emails from hotel chains to correspondence with a state lawmaker about setting up a photo shoot with his granddaughter.

Included in the documents was correspondence between Sean Kouplen, Stitt’s secretary of workforce development, and Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of Tesla, as part of Oklahoma’s longshot bid to lure the company’s new manufacturing facility to Tulsa.

 

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