OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt became the first American governor to announce Wednesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.
The Republican governor, who has made a series of mask-less public appearances in recent days, said he woke Tuesday feeling achy and was tested as a precaution.
Stitt said he received his positive diagnosis at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“I was pretty shocked that I was the first governor to get it,” he said during a hastily called remote press conference where he publicly announced his diagnosis.
“You might say I’m asymptomatic or slightly achy, but really (I) feel fine,” he said.
Stitt said though he feels fine, he will be taking precautions like isolating from his family and working from home until he’s cleared to return.
He said his wife, Sarah, and children have all tested negative for the deadly virus.
News of Stitt's positive diagnosis came as the state saw another record-setting jump in the number of COVID-19 cases. On Wednesday, health officials reported 1,075 new cases, bringing the state's total to 22,813.
In all, 561 Oklahomans remained hospitalized, and 432 people have died.
Lance Frye, the state’s interim commissioner of health, said health officials have begun contract tracing to determine who would have been closer than 6 feet away from the governor for 15 minutes or more.
Health officials said Stitt isn’t believed to have been contagious before Saturday.
“Where he became infected is really unknown,” Frye said. “It could have been any time in the last few weeks.”
On Tuesday before his results came back, Stitt attended a Commissioners of the Land Office meeting with the Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell and Blayne Arthur, the state’s secretary of agriculture.
Stitt said he’s contacted both Pinnell and Arthur to let them know of his positive test.
“I want to use my story to remind Oklahomans that if you’re not feeling well, we want you to get tested,” he said.
Stitt said he expects to receive a ton of texts from other governors.
“I’ll let them know it kind of feels achy like the start of a little cold,” he said.
On June 20, Stitt made a high-profile appearance at President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa. He did not wear a mask.
Frye said the Trump rally happened too long ago for Stitt’s diagnosis to be linked to that public appearance.
Previously Stitt was criticized for not wearing a mask while making public appearances and for failing to issue a statewide face-covering mandate.
Stitt said his position on mandating masks hasn’t changed despite his diagnosis. He plans to leave that decision up to local communities.
“You can’t pick and choose what freedoms you’re going to give to people,” he said.
Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.