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OPINION

Please follow guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19

Sen. Bill Coleman

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday. While your celebrations may have looked different than in years past, I think this pandemic has helped us all better appreciate the truly important things in life, including precious time with our family and friends.

Before I get into legislative business, I want to stress again the importance of being careful as we continue to navigate this health crisis. COVID-19 hit our household. We got through it safely, but many Oklahomans aren’t as fortunate. Please listen and follow CDC and health care professionals’ guidance by wearing a mask, washing your hands and watching your distance.

Cases are exploding statewide, overwhelming our health care system, and most state hospitals are at or above capacity and having to cancel minor surgeries and other procedures to focus on COVID-19 patients. Some Oklahoma City hospitals are having to set up tents to treat patients, while others are having to send patients to other states.

There have been more than 208,000 cases in Oklahoma alone. Our state has one of the highest positivity rates in the nation. As of Friday, Dec. 4, 1,860 Oklahomans had died from COVID-19 since March, and that number is expected to skyrocket by the end of the month.

We must all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Dealing with the pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives, and I know it’s been frustrating, and for many families flat out devastating. Many are frustrated by the health recommendations and requirements. But sometimes we have to do things we don’t like or that are inconvenient to protect ourselves and others -- wearing seat belts, following speed limits and traffic signals, and wearing shoes and shirts in public places.

Wearing a mask and social distancing are temporary. It’s a small act to ensure that you don’t unknowingly infect someone whose immune system can’t fight this virus. We all must do what is best and right to protect our fellow Oklahomans, keep our businesses and schools open, and protect our state economy.

Around 40,000 Oklahomans remain unemployed, and many are still fighting to get their unemployment benefits. If you’re having problems securing your benefits, please call Workforce Oklahoma in Ponca City at 580-765-3372 to set up an in-person meeting. They’re located at 400 E. Central Ave., Suite 103.

I was so pleased that the Oklahoma Works Together program has certified nine new Centers for Workforce Excellence including one in Ponca City, which will be led by the Pioneer Technology Center. This innovative program utilizes Oklahoma’s educational assets to help meet the needs of our local businesses and workforce. They provide customized workforce training and recruitment plans based on those local needs. This is an exciting opportunity for our district.

Legislatively, we’re beginning to work on redistricting, which is constitutionally required of the state Legislature. President Pro Tem Greg Treat appointed me to the bipartisan Redistricting Committee, and I’ll be joining my colleagues for several town hall meetings around the state in the next two months. These will allow for public input into the redistricting process. One will be held in Ponca City at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, in the Summit Conference Room at City Central. The meeting will be livestreamed and archived on the Senate website.

If I can be of any assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office. You can contact me by calling 405-521-5581 or emailing Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.