OKLAHOMA CITY — State parks remain open even though the governor has ordered most entertainment venues shuttered during the state’s spreading COVID-19 outbreak.
The state also is continuing to allow people to camp and use recreational vehicle areas, though guests now have to book online ahead of time.
“The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department recognizes the importance of being able to go outside and enjoy the freedom of the outdoors while social distancing standards are in place,” said Leslie Blair, a spokeswoman for the state parks system.
But, in an effort to protect employees, state park lodges and restaurants are closed and are interactions with park guests are being kept at a minimum, Blair said.
“The parks are currently keeping the cabins open and offering curbside or lockbox check-in at all locations where possible,” she said. “All of our lodges, nature centers, group camps/dining halls, community buildings and other enclosed places where people gather are closed in compliance with the governor’s executive order.”
Last week, Gov. Kevin Stitt ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses in counties with confirmed cases of COVID-19. He’s also banned social gatherings of 10 or more in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19. Critics, though, have complained he’s classified too many businesses as “essential,” which undercuts its effectiveness.
Non-essential businesses include bars, movie theaters, dine-in portions of restaurants, salons and gyms. Some Oklahoma cities also have closed playgrounds in an effort to mitigate the spread. In Enid city parks, playground equipment is taped off to keep people from using it, although parks remain open.
Stitt’s office did not return a message left seeking comment.
As of Monday morning, the state Department of Health reported 481 Oklahomans had tested positive for COVID-19. There were 153 hospitalizations and 17 deaths.
Officials temporarily have delayed a plan to charge admission fees at many Oklahoma parks, Blair said.
Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.