Oklahoma's Kevin Stitt Becomes First U.S. Governor to Test Positive for Coronavirus

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced during a Wednesday news conference that he tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

Stitt's diagnosis makes him the first U.S. governor to test positive for the virus.

Stitt said during a virtual conference call that he has been tested several times since the pandemic arrived in the U.S., but Tuesday marked the first time his results came back positive. The governor said he felt fine aside from some body aches he experienced on Tuesday.

"I was pretty shocked that I was the first governor to get it," Stitt said, adding that he planned to work from home and isolate from his family members while he recovered.

"I want to use my story to remind Oklahomans that, if you aren't feeling well, we want you to get tested," the governor said.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt
Governor Kevin Stitt (R-OK) speaks during a roundtable at the State Dining Room of the White House June 18, 2020 in Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, Stitt announced he contracted COVID-19, becoming the first U.S. governor to test positive. Alex Wong/Getty

Oklahoma is one of many states in which COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in recent weeks. By Wednesday, July 15, health officials reported 1,075 new cases and four new deaths, bringing the state's tally to 22,813 total cases and 432 deaths statewide.

The state's began seeing a surge of cases mid-June, shortly before President Donald Trump held his first re-election rally in months at Tulsa's Bank of Oklahoma Center, an indoor venue capable of seating more than 19,000 people. Not as many people attended the rally as organizers anticipated, but health officials still criticized the event's lack of enforcement regarding social distancing and face coverings, both of which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended as strategies for preventing further spread of the virus.

In the days leading up to the rally, health experts warned against the risks indoor events posed at a time when several states—including Oklahoma—were already reporting upticks in new cases. The state has in the weeks since gone from reporting a daily average of 300 or fewer new cases to more than 900 daily new cases in recent days.

While some individuals in the president's inner circle tested positive for COVID-19 in the weeks after the rally—including members of the president's campaign staff, some of his Secret Service agents and Donald Trump, Jr.'s girlfriend—Stitt's diagnosis came after the two-week incubation period the CDC identified for the virus, though he did attend the June 20 event.

Stitt said he did not plan to pause the state's reopening plans or introduce a statewide mask mandate, as many other governors have in response to their state's own virus surges.

"We respect people's rights to stay home if they want, to run their businesses or to not wear a mask," Stitt said, adding that a mask mandate would be difficult for local leaders to enforce.

"COVID-19 is still in the United States—we know that. It's still in Oklahoma. We need to take this virus very seriously. We need to come together and make sure each one of us is doing the best we can to slow the spread," Stitt said.

The governor's office declined Newsweek's request for further comment.