Oklahoma governor faces backlash over 'packed' restaurant tweet amid coronavirus pandemic
Oklahoma's governor faced swift backlash since tweeting a photo of himself and his children at a crowded restaurant Saturday amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In the now-deleted tweet, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said, "Eating with my kids and all my fellow Oklahomans at the @CollectiveOKC. It's packed tonight!"
His post runs counter to the warnings of public health officials who are encouraging the public to stay home and practice social distancing as a way to contain the spread of the virus. As of Sunday, there were more than 3,000 cases of the novel coronavirus in the US, according to government agencies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"For a while, life is not going to be the way it used to be in the United States," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday morning. "We have to just accept that if we want to do what's best for the American public."
There were at least 3,155 coronavirus cases in 49 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Washington, DC as of Sunday afternoon. At least 62 people have died. West Virginia remained the only state without any confirmed cases.
The US can expect more cases and deaths, Fauci said at a White House briefing Saturday, noting: "We have not yet reached our peak." And on Sunday he warned that America's death toll from coronavirus will depend on the nation's response and whether takes necessary action to curb the spread of the disease.
Charlie Hannema, chief of communications for the governor's office, told CNN in an email that Stitt's position "has not changed from the instructions he gave Oklahomans on Thursday: Use good common sense, follow the recommended health precautions, protect the elderly and vulnerable populations, but continue to remain calm, live your life and support local businesses."
"The governor will continue to take his family out to dinner and to the grocery store without living in fear and encourages Oklahomans to do the same," he continued.
Hannema did not respond to questions about why Stitt's tweet was deleted.
While Twitter users can no longer comment on Stitt's original post, critics took their complaints to his other tweets about the virus.
"What kind of parent knowingly puts his children, extended family, and everyone they will now come into contact with at risk?" one user wrote. "This is the epitome of irresponsibility."
"Governor, I want to support local businesses too," another user responded. "But crowded restaurants and bars will transmit virus and make ALL businesses worse off. Encourage restaurants to move to takeout or delivery only, with proper protections for their workers. Social distancing can save lives."
Stitt's tweet has also brought renewed attention to a 2018 speech he gave calling for vaccination to be a "choice."
In the speech -- which was reported by The Daily Beast -- Stitt says, "We've got six children and we don't vaccinate, we don't do vaccinations on all of our children. So we definitely pick and choose which ones we're going to do. It's got to be up to the parents, we can never mandate that."
Stitt's campaign website dismissed the article as "clickbait" and stated he did not support "changing current state law on mandated vaccines."
By Paul LeBlanc, CNN via The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.
The Gayly. 3/15/2020 @ 6:04 p.m. CST.