Car dealer sees success despite pandemic

By Michael Kinney

For almost two months, Anthony Santiago was living out of a hotel room. Despite having a beautiful home, the general manager of Lawton Chrysler Jeep Dodge RAM felt it was best for him not to see his family for a while.

Because Santiago’s wife, Gretchen, has pre-existing and underlying medical conditions, he couldn’t keep working and go home every night.

“And I just thought it’d be prudent that during these times while I’m working with various customers, that I keep her safe,” Santiago said. “And so, I just decided for a while that I would work and stay away and let her quarantine and be safe. I’m probably one of the millions of people who are doing things differently in order to keep their families safe.”

Santiago’s quarantine from his family ended June 12 after he and his wife made the decision it was time.

“It’s a short period of time. We were just doing it for during the time of chaos,” Santiago said. “.We were hoping that something would change as far as either very much lowering of the curve, not just flattening or a cure. But at the end of the day, we made a decision that it’s more important for me to be home with family right now.”

However, that was only one of Santiago’s concerns when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Businesses around the country were closing, and the chance of layoffs taking place was a distinct possibility.

In March when Lawton started closing all nonessential businesses, Santiago was concerned about the future.

“My initial thought is we were going to close down. I had no idea that they would consider us essential. Glad for it,” Santiago said. “I’m glad that I was able to keep all my employees. Was really concerned about my people, to be honest with you. And so much, I couldn’t sleep the first few days. My thought process was we’re going to be like everybody else and we’re going to be out of commission for a few weeks.”

But because the automobile industry fell into the essential category, Lawton Chrysler Jeep Dodge RAM was to stay in operation. However, even Santiago was split on the decision.

“To be honest, for me personally, I was hoping we would be closed for a couple of weeks because I thought it would be best for the nation,” Santiago said. “But for my people, I was pretty ecstatic for it. I was pretty happy that they had a chance to provide for their families. Surprised and thankful.”

Yet, just because the dealership didn’t have to shut down, it didn’t mean everyone was going to feel safe coming in to work. Santiago didn’t want to pressure anyone into working if they were not comfortable, so he made an executive decision that many employers across the country didn’t make.

“I think that was the decision everybody had to make on their own. We should never force somebody to work through those conditions, and so we didn’t,” Santiago said. “The first thing we did was offer them all the opportunity to go home and to come back to a job that was fully available when they came back. I thought it was important. I thought it was important to have that opportunity.”

According to Santiago, only two employees at the dealership chose to stay away during the lockdown. But he says both would have their same jobs whenever they decide it’s safe for them to return to work.

For everyone else who stayed and worked, Santiago had one other major concern – were they going to be able to make any money?

With the majority of residents in Comanche County and Southwest Oklahoma supposedly in social isolation and not collecting a paycheck due to not working, Santiago didn’t know where the sales would come from. 

Dealerships across the state and the nation were preparing for the worst.

“I know many dealerships lessened their staff dramatically,” Santiago said. “One in Oklahoma City fired 90 percent of their staff.”

Santiago didn’t want that to happen at his dealership, but he couldn’t guarantee it.

But then a strange thing started to happen. Even as the pandemic was at its worst, people were still going out and purchasing cars.

“March is normally our biggest month of the year. Initially, there was a 25 percent drop in service, maybe 40 percent,” Santiago said. “But we recovered in April which is quite surprising. April we had record sales. April really just took over for March, which is normally our best month. April wound up being our best month despite that we were still suffering the consequences of corona, but people were still looking to purchase.”

What makes the success Santiago saw even more amazing was that it was the opposite around the nation. Every major automobile manufacturer saw sharp declines in the month of April.

According to Edmunds, the car shopping analyst, due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was a 52.5% decrease in total sales compared to April of 2019. The analysts stated this April was the lowest-volume sales month dating back to at least 1990.

“April auto sales took the biggest hit we’ve seen in decades,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of insights. “These bleak figures aren’t just because consumers are holding back on their purchases — fleet sales are seeing an even more dramatic drop as daily rental business has dried up. Like many other industries, the entire automotive sector is struggling as the coronavirus crisis continues to cripple the economy.”

When looking at those numbers, Santiago can only guess why his dealership was able to strive while others struggled. 

“I can attribute that maybe to the fact that they were going to purchase in March and just held off. And so maybe April is just double the opportunities,” Santiago said. “Plus the stimulus check might’ve influenced them. But the truth is most of the vehicles that were purchased were the high-end vehicles, Ram Trucks. And that is probably due to the incentives some of these other vehicle manufacturers were offering customers during this time.”

For customers to keep making big-ticket item purchases during such a time of uncertainty did tell Santiago a few things.

“The confidence that people have that this is not going to be a long-term pandemic. That they’re confident that despite the numerous job losses, the numerous deaths, that they realize that this is a great time to invest,” Santiago said. “Some people just thought that this was an opportune time to invest in a market being really low. You’d think that fear would take over and it didn’t, not in the car business.”

Now that the economy has opened back up and restrictions have loosened, Santiago isn’t sure which direction car sales is heading. While dealerships were able to stay open, most manufacturing companies had to shut down.

So with no new cars hitting the showroom floor anytime soon, dealerships will be experiencing a new situation.

“I believe that it will either stay at this level or actually decrease a little simply because of roughly three months of no production of vehicles,” Santiago said. “The factories being closed down, much of the used cars being depleted because of the factories being closed down, the actual volume of product is at all-time lows right now. So customers are not getting exactly what they want sometimes. Sometimes they’re settling for what they can get or what’s available in lieu of what exactly they want. But I hope I am wrong.”

Story by Michael Kinney/Michael Kinney Media

Sooners take the field as Big 12 schedule comes into focus

By Michael Kinney

In past years, whenever the Oklahoma football team officially opened up the season, it was a party atmosphere. The annual Meet the Sooners event drew thousands of kids and adults from around the state. Along with Media day, it has been the perfect way to kick off the gridiron season.

But that has all changed in 2020 with the rise of the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday the Sooners took the field for their first official practice of the COVID-19 era.

It was great. It’s been 143 days, so it’s a long time coming,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “You could feel that in the atmosphere today. Guys just eager to be out here, very excited, maybe even more than a normal opening at camp. Because they’re always fun, but this one had a little different feel to it.”

Due to the spread of COVID-19, Oklahoma didn’t let its players report to campus for voluntary workouts until July 1, which was much later than other programs across the country. That plan has seemingly paid off.

After the first week where OU had 16 players test positive for COVID-19. Their latest testing date came July 29 and 100 football players were tested for the coronavirus. None tested positive. All 16 players who had COVID-19 have recovered.

“We’re in good shape. We are. I think they did a really good job while they were home,” Riley said. “As a lot of people know, we kept our guys home a little bit longer than most, and yeah, they’ve done a good job. They were in good shape. We didn’t have to pull off of them very much from what we would normally do on a day like today so that was a big positive.”

Riley said they haven’t changed up any type of practice drills in order to protect the players. They just follow the guidelines of everyone wears masks.

“It’s more about keeping the face covered and what we do in between. We’re not changing a whole lot about our practices,” Riley said. “We’ve gone for seven days now in the OTA period and we’re doing, even in that, we’ve done team drills, guys up next to each other, and as everybody knows, we tested again and had no positives. We feel like what we’re doing is working. It’s not as much about what we’re doing as far as the drill, it’s limiting unnecessary times where guys are not socially distant and then everybody keeping their face covered.”

Riley, who recently signed a new six-year extension, also said they have a full squad of players on hand.

“We have no players sitting out,” Riley said. “As far as medical history, it’s something we pay attention to with all our guys, but obviously that’s something they won’t let me get into.”

Oklahoma enters practice looking to replace a host of key players. That includes at CeeDee Lamb, Jalen Hurts and Kenneth Murray, who were all selected in the 2019 NFL draft.

At quarterback, the battle should be between redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler and redshirt sophomore Tanner Mordeaci.

Most experts believe the 6-0, 198 pound Rattler has the inside edge at the start of camp. He was the top ranked quarterback coming out of high school in the 2019 class before backing up Jalen Hurts last season.

But, just like in past, Riley says every position is up for grabs.

“Looks like we’ve got a lot of contributors on this field, and a lot of guys that could potentially have a lot of big roles for this team,” Riley said. “It’s exciting, and I don’t think there’s a position right now that we’re not going to have a lot of competitive depth.”

The Sooners did suffer a major blow Monday. Linebacker Caleb Kelly has been reported to have torn an ACL in his knee.

Kelly’s career at OU has been marked by setback and injuries. After the fifth senior missed most of 2019 with a knee injury, 2020 was going to be the year it all came together for him. He was the leading candidate to replace Kenneth Murray at inside linebacker.

Oklahoma hasn’t confirmed the severity of the injury or how long Kelly will be sidelined.

Kelly graduated in May and is currently working on his master’s in administrative leadership.

Schedule Conflicts

The Big 12 was the only Power 5 Conference yet to make a decision on what type of schedule they will follow for the 2020 season. That hanged Monday night when the Big 12 Board of Directors announced they would essentially follow the same plan as the other major conferences.

Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and the rest of the league will be on the “9 + 1” schedule for the 2020 season consisting of nine conference games and one non-conference home opponent.

“The start of Conference play will be solidified in the coming weeks, with an anticipated start sometime between mid- to late-September, with the expectation that non-conference games are contested prior to beginning league games,” the Big 12 conference said in a statement.

The model also gives the Conference flexibility to move back the Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship game to December 12th or 19th.

“I would like to salute the work of our university presidents and chancellors, athletics directors, coaches, medical advisors and administrators who have worked tirelessly and collaboratively during these extraordinary times,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.  “We believe this change provides the best opportunity going forward.  However, we will undoubtedly need to be flexible as we progress through the season in order to combat the challenges that lie ahead.”

As of right now, the Sooners are set to open the season at home Aug. 29 when they host Missouri State. It was originally scheduled for Sept. 5. This would constitute their one home non-conference game.

The Sooner’s next opponent was supposed to be Tennessee on Sept. 12. However, the SEC announced last week that they are playing only conference opponents this season. This forced the Volunteers to cancel their trip to Norman.

Oklahoma’s trip to New York to face Army is still on the schedule for Sept. 26 with the Big 12 opener set for Oct. 3 at home against Baylor.  But that could all change as more details around the schedules come together.

“We appreciate the donors, ticket holders, partners and fans who have been so patient and supportive through these unprecedented times,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “Our staff has prepared for a number of different scenarios and we will be ready when the season begins. Our new schedule is being finalized along with all of the details that will be associated with stadium access and operation. We expect to have that information completed soon and will communicate it as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we remain very enthusiastic as we look forward to another great season of Sooner football.”

Story by Michael Kinney/Michael Kinney Media

Thunder falls in overtime; Donovan earns coaching honor

By Michael Kinney

The Oklahoma City Thunder dropped their first official game of the NBA restart Monday afternoon when they took on the Denver Nuggets. After leading for much of the contests, the Thunder fell 121-113 in overtime at the Walter Disney Resort in Orlando.

After going 3-0 during exhibition games then beating Utah in the restart opener, the Thunder had been on a roll. But playing shorthanded Monday, the Nuggets proved to be too much as they dominated points in the paint 50-28.

“We have to be more solid,” Chris Paul said. “Especially myself in trying to keep guys in front and play team defense.”

Michael Porter Jr. led all scorers with 37 points for Denver. But it was the triple double from Nikola Jokic that caused the Thunder the most problems. He tallied 30 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the victory.

“It was a huge size advantage,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan. “They had Jerami Grant at times as the two guard, they were playing Jokić and (Mason) Plumlee together, (Paul) Millsap out there, I mean they are very, very big long physical team and I thought Jokić found ways to get himself fouled. I thought we did a good job on them in the first half.”

 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led Oklahoma City with 24 points on 6 of 13 shooting. He also shot 9 of 11 from the free throw line.

Chris Paul added 23 points and eight assists. But the veteran point guard also tossed in five turnovers. As a team, the Thunder threw away the ball 15 times.

“We’ve been great all year all along taking care of the basketball. Since we’ve been here in Orlando, we’ve turned the ball over too much,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan. “That’s got to be something that we need to clean up.”

Oklahoma City played without Terrance Ferguson, who has a leg contusion.

They were also without guard Dennis Schroder, who left the NBA bubble to be with his wife Ellan for the birth of their baby daughter, Imalia.

The Thunder knew before they arrived in Orlando last month that Schroder would be leaving when it was time for the birth to occur. There is no timetable for Schroder’s return, but the team does expect him back at some point.

Oklahoma City will be back on the court Wednesday when they take on top seed the Los Angeles Lakers. They will close out the week Thursday when they take on the Memphis Grizzlies. After that, Oklahoma Coty will have just four games left in the regular season.

Coach of the Year

Lost in the excitement of game day, Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan was named NBA co-coach of the year Monday morning by The National Basketball Coaches Association. He joins Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer as co-winners of their Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award.

“I am honored and humbled to be recognized by the Coaches, they are a great group of people that I admire and respect,” said Donovan in a press release from the NBCA. “Receiving the Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award alongside such a terrific coach like Bud makes it even more special. Individual honors to me have always been a reflection of good team dynamics and I’m proud of the collective work that our players, coaching staff and the entire organization has put in this season. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead in Orlando as we get back to basketball and using our platform for social justice.”

After losing Russell Westbrook and Paul George in the offseason, most analyst believed the Thunder would be one of the worst teams in the league.

However, the additions of Paul, Gilgeous-Alexande and Danilo Gallinari gave Donovan a foundation to work with. Along with the development of a core young players, he has transformed the squad into a possible contender.

“Every season brings different challenges,” Donovan said. “When you’re dealing with a group of people, a group of individuals, how well you mesh and gel and work together is certainly a big part of how successful you can be as a team. It’s been great to see so many new faces come into the organization and work so well together as a group,” Donovan added. “That’s been really fun to watch.”

Story by Michael Kinney/Michael Kinney Media

Being a COVID-19 ‘long-hauler’ is taking some getting used to

By Michael Kinney

On June 20, President Donald Trump held a political rally in Tulsa. It was his first event since the coronavirus pandemic had shut down the country.

As a journalist, I was looking forward to covering it. With the possibilities of protests, counter-protests and standoffs all intermingling in one area, it was the type of event reporters crave.

However, when the evening arrived, I wasn’t at the BOK Center in Tulsa. I was laid out on my couch, unable to move due to severe fatigue, inner vibrations and chest pains that had hit me about an hour before I was set to leave for the Trump rally. My symptoms totally erased my plans for the rest of the weekend.

This is the life of “long- haulers” which is the term adopted by a growing group of COVID-19 patients who have long-term symptoms that not only won’t go away, but for some are getting worse.

This has been a reoccurring issue for me ever since I tested positive for COVID-19 on April 1, more than 100 days ago. My symptoms will pop up out of nowhere and can last for a few hours or several days. For others, the symptoms are constant, and they go through each day having to manage something they do not understand.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people infected with the coronavirus typically recover in about two weeks.

Yet, a percentage of COVID-19 patients are dealing with lingering issues weeks and months after the virus has left the body. I’ve heard from Long-haulers in Europe who were diagnosed as early as February are still trying to manage their symptoms.

“It’s such a strange virus,” Dr. Scott Michener, Chief Medical Officer at Comanche County Memorial Hospital, said of the novel coronavirus. “We’ve had coronaviruses before. I think this is the seventh coronavirus. We’re learning, but you can’t know something that you don’t have any experience with. And you can’t have good science till you do studies. One case doesn’t make a study.”

Not everyone claiming to be a long-hauler has the same symptoms. But a short list of lingering issues includes having a strange metallic taste, tingling in the arms and legs, muscle weakness, nerve pain, cough, anosmia, sore throat, delirium, chest pain, fatigue, heart palpitations, back pain, chronic shortness of breath, gastrointestinal disorders and brain fog.

With much of the medical world, governments and media focused on preventing deaths and slowing the spread of COVID 19, Long-haulers have fallen through the cracks in the United States. But as more and more Long-haulers are unable to get answers, they are starting to ask questions loudly.

In June, a petition was sent to asking the WHO to revise the guidelines to ref lect a more accurate recovery time to ensure patients are receiving the appropriate care and attention.

“Guidelines communicated by the WHO, CDC, and NHS state that ‘mild’ COVID-19 symptoms typically resolve within two weeks, with more severe cases resolving in six weeks,” the petition states. “This is proving to not be the case, and this commonly referred to information is the basis for doubt and confusion among the medical professionals caring for individuals. The result leaves these COVID-19 sufferers vulnerable from a medical, employment and social perspective.”

Those who suffer from long- term symptoms have turned to online support groups on various social media platforms. On Facebook, one group has amassed close to 14,000 members while another on Slack has more than 6,900.

The groups give long-haulers a placer where they are understood by others afflicted by the same condition and often offer suggestions or just allow members to vent their frustrations.

Many in the support groups complain about having to make several trips to their doctor or the local emergency rooms only to be told there is nothing that can be done.

A patient named Jennifer said she tested positive on March 15 and has not been able to go back to work since due to the recurring symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and palpitations.

“I’m still signed off work, but I’m terrified this thing may have affected my heart,” she stated. “I do feel alone in that the doctor won’t see me. So, it’s just like you have to get on with it. It’s really stressful. I have just taken it [upon] myself to try to rest as much as possible, which isn’t easy with three young children, including a baby. I’m taking multivitamins but just feel that I’m trying to heal myself. Work keeps asking when I’m [coming] back, but I really don’t think, unless you get it, folks appreciate how long it takes to recover.”

In Europe, rehabilitation centers have been set up to help focus in on patients with long-term effects. In New York, Mount Sinai Health System created a post-COVID care facility.

Still, the WHO and CDC have yet to make post-COVID care a priority.

“We hear anecdotal reports of people who have persistent fatigue, shortness of breath” said Jay Butler, the CDC’s Deputy Director of Infectious Diseases. “How long that will last is hard to say.”

According to the CDC, a patient needs to test negative for COVID-19 twice before they will classify the person as virus-free. During the past month I have taken the standard nasal swab test on three separate occasions with each one coming back negative.

Yet, during that same time- span I have also dealt with some of the most intense physical reactions. Along with a host of other symptoms, there are times during the day when light and sound can cause painful reactions in my nervous system that can floor me. These are relatively new and have become more intense, which is called a relapse in the world of the long-haulers.

I’ve had other times when my entire body will tremble, or I’ll have difficulties catching my breath when I wake up.

Yet, the worst reoccurring side effects may be the anxiety and fear that can arise whenever the symptoms manifest. Convincing yourself you’re not spiraling down into a severe case of COVID-19 is difficult when your heart is racing, your chest is tightening at 3 a.m. and you have no concrete answers as to why.

“There’s this neurologic component, and then there are people that have this loss of taste and smell, that’s their olfactory nerve,” Dr. Michener said. “Those symptoms linger. And there’s definitely scarring that can occur when a patient gets it bad, like in their lungs. That scarring inhibits the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the blood cells, and so obviously those patients are going to have prolonged, some degree of symptoms. There could be lifelong debility. We just don’t know.”

There have been tough changes I’ve had to make. I’ve had to curtail drastically my workout regime because over exertion can bring on a relapse (Have started doing Yoga). The same with too much caffeine. I have even forced myself to become a much healthier eater. (I’ve discovered Portabella burgers are not half bad).

I’m slowly finding the right groove to be able to manage being a long hauler with hopes the symptoms will disappear completely at some point. Despite a few relapses, I have been able to continue to work and do many of the things I did before all this started.

That’s a lot better than others who are suffering from much worse symptoms than me and find it impossible to even get out of bed. Many have lost their jobs and don’t see any hope of it ever ending.

They are the ones who need to understand just exactly what they are going through so measures can be taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 (Wear masks). Because, once you get it, it can be a crap shoot on how your body will respond. You may feel nothing at all or you could be the newest member of the Long-Haulers. Or worse.

Story by Michael Kinney/Michael Kinney Media

Thunder to take on the Jazz in restart to NBA season

By Michael Kinney

After two days of NBA action, the restart officially begins for the Oklahoma City Thunder today. They will tip-off pretty much where they left off as they take on the Utah Jazz at 2:30 p.m. CT at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando.

It was the Jazz who was in Oklahoma City March 11 to face the Thunder when the game was canceled due to a player testing positive for the coronavirus. That move set off a chain reaction that ended up putting the entire league on pause for almost five months.

Now the teams are back for an eight game regular season before the postseason beings.

“I mean I’m definitely excited to get playing and get the ball rolling on the real thing. We’ve been waiting for this moment I’ll say for a long time,” Hamidou Diallo said. “It’s been a lot of things going on in the world and I’m just happy we’re being able to play the game that we love.”

Utah comes into the game with already one victory under its belt. They played opening night and came back to beat New Orleans 106-14.

While Oklahoma City has already qualified for the playoffs, they still have a lot to play for going down the stretch. One of those is just getting used to playing and competing with no fans in the building.

“The hardest part, I think, was running out,” said veteran Chris Paul. “It’s one of those things a lot of guys on the team say – ‘bring your own energy’.”

For those who watch the game on TV or online, they will notice the pumped in arena noise coming over the loudspeakers. But even that couldn’t drown out the silence on the court when the players are not talking and communicating.

“One of (Paul’s) greatest strengths is he’s an incredible communicator,” Coach Billy Donovan. “And he’s got a lot of years of experience under his belt and the fact that he continues to talk, I think it gives our other guys confidence to continue to talk. So in this kind of venue, where there is not going to be necessarily a lot of crowd noise, communication is really, really critical.”

The Thunder and Jazz can be seen on Fox Sports Oklahoma or heard on 98.1 FM. Game time is set for 2:30 p.m.

Story & Photo by Michael Kinney/Michael Kinney Media

Oklahoma high on the list of having the fewest COVID-19 restrictions

By Michael Kinney

As the United States continues to grapple with the spread of COVID-19, the national government has pretty much had a hands-off approach when it comes to putting restrictions in place. That has left it up to individual states to decide how best to combat the coronavirus pandemic and still keep the economy moving.  

Because every state is different, it can be hard to compare who is doing a better job of handling the reopening phase that the country is still in. However, tried to do just that.  

WalletHub, a personal-finance website, recently released its rankings for the states with the fewest coronavirus restrictions and Oklahoma came in at No. 3 with the third-fewest restrictions in the country when it come to combating the pandemic.  

Oklahoma posted an overall score of 71.78, which put them just ahead of No. 4 Utah (68.64) and No. 5 Iowa (66.89). 

Scores were determined by the weighted average across all metrics to calculate an overall score for each state and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. 

South Dakota leads the way with the fewest restrictions by a large margin with a total score of 86.95. Wisconsin is a distant second with 75.09 total score. 

“South Dakota ranks as the state with the fewest coronavirus restrictions in part because it does not require or recommend working from home and it does not currently have penalties or enforcement for non-compliance with COVID-19 legislation,” said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst. “South Dakota does not currently have any restrictions on large gatherings, and it is the only state that didn’t require restaurants to close during the pandemic.” 

On the other end of the spectrum, California has the most coronavirus restrictions. The state earned a 15.54 score, which ranked them No. 51. New Jersey (27.15) and Pennsylvania (27.51) were far behind at No. 50 and No. 49 respectively.  

In order to identify which states have the fewest coronavirus restrictions, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 18 key metrics. The data set ranges from whether the state has any penalties for non-compliance with COVID-19 legislation to whether the state has required face masks in public and health checks at restaurants. (1=fewest, 25=avg., 51=most) 

Oklahoma’s highest ranking came in the category of reopening of non-essential businesses. Their rank of No. 23 put them just below average.  

“The ranking means that certain non-essential businesses opened or have been reopened with reduced capacity,” Gonzalez said. “This will clearly have a positive impact on the state’s business sector, especially for hospitality and entertainment businesses.” 

While Oklahoma was No. 3 overall, they did take the top spot in several different metrics. That included working from home requirements.  

“The metric basically means that the state doesn’t require or even recommend working from home. I think this has more to do with the fact that Oklahoma has a fairly low COVID-19 death rate,” Gonzalez said. “It’s difficult to tell what criteria authorities used when imposing restrictions. It is possible they may have also taken into account the fact that the state’s main industries, like biotechnology or energy, are not fit for working from home situations.” 

When it comes to the fewest requirements to wear face masks, once again Oklahoma is No. 1.  Even though a few cities around the state have made face coverings in buildings mandatory, that was not enough to push Oklahoma off the top spot. 

“Oklahoma’s ranking for this metric takes into account the fact that there is no state action on public face coverings,” Gonzalez said. “The report refers strictly to state level data, and does not analyze the policies of each city within the state.” 

Oklahoma was also No. 1 in workplace temperature screening, reopening of child-care programs and travel restrictions. They were also No. 2 in large gathering restrictions, according to WalletHub. 

This is the sixth time WalletHub has put together these rankings since early May. On June 9, Oklahoma was ranked No. 34 overall, which meant they were well above average with some of the most restrictions in the country.  

But since then, it has been a drastic decline for Oklahoma. Its past three rankings were No. 9. No. 5 and now No. 3. 

“There are several things that caused this drop,” Gonzalez said. “Travel restrictions have been lifted since then, as well as large gatherings restrictions. Oklahoma also fully reopened bars and lifted all stay-at-home restrictions.” 

Each of the top three states with the fewest coronavirus restrictions, also have some of the lowest death rate numbers in the country. That includes Oklahoma, whose death rate toll is ranked No. 15.  

“These states, along with others, such as Wyoming and North Dakota, have loosened or lifted restrictions because they had low death rates,” Gonzalez said. “It basically means that all the social distancing measures that were imposed by authorities were successful in flattening the curve of infection.” 

However, the recent spikes in the coronavirus across the country may have shown that some states may have lifted their restrictions too soon. 

“States with spikes in COVID-19 deaths should pause their reopening as well as make sure extra preventative measures are in place, like mandatory mask wearing and temperature checks at workplaces and busy transit hubs. Some states, such as Texas and Arizona, have already paused their reopening yet don’t require masks in public,” said Gonzalez. “It may be necessary to reinstitute lockdowns in some places at a micro level, in small communities that are experiencing especially high death and hospitalization rates.”

Story & Photo by Michael Kinney/Michael Kinney Media

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