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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. Stitt is imposing new restrictions on bars and restaurants and requiring masks in state buildings as officials attempt to control the surging number of coronavirus infections. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

11.19.20 – OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)

Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday he planned to attend a college football game over the weekend and spend Thanksgiving with his parents, even as coroanvirus cases in the state continued to surge this week and the nation’s top public health agency pleaded with Americans not to travel for the holidays.

During a press conference with state health officials, Stitt said he planned to watch the annual Bedlam matchup between the University of Oklahoma-Oklahoma State University in Norman in person Saturday and spend time with family members he doesn’t live with next week.

“I think Oklahomans should be with their loved ones over Thanksgiving,” Stitt said.

The governor’s plans contradict guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday that encouraged Americans to stay home for Thanksgiving and not to gather with people from outside their household.

Stitt also didn’t wear a mask during Thursday’s press conference inside a crowded conference room at the state Capitol, despite issuing an executive order Monday requiring state employees to wear masks inside state buildings. The state’s first restrictions since May also included ordering bars and restaurants to close in-person service by 11 p.m. and space tables 6 feet apart.

In July, Stitt tested positive for COVID-19. The month before he had attended President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, which health experts said likely contributed to a summer surge in coronavirus cases there.

Meanwhile Thursday, mayors in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the state’s two largest cities, urged Oklahomans to consider taking even more precautions over the next 10 days to minimize the number of people they come into contact with as the number of cases and hospitalizations have surged in recent weeks.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said that while his Thanksgiving celebration typically involves dozens of family members, this year’s will be just with his wife and two children.

“We’re doing that because we want to keep our family safe,” Bynum said. “I think it’s important that elected officials set that example.”

The number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Oklahoma have surged in recent weeks, although hospitalizations declined slightly on Thursday, as did increases in the number of deaths and reported cases of the virus, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The department reported 1,381 people hospitalized, down from a one-day record of 1,434 on Wednesday. The department also reported 2,915 new cases and 18 more deaths due to the illness caused by the virus, compared to 3,017 new cases and a record 26 new deaths a day earlier.ADVERTISEMENT

There are 164,340 total reported cases and 1,588 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began in March and the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Oklahoma has risen from 1,231 to 2,727 on Wednesday, The true number of infections is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.