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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: No plans to close state Capitol

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There are no plans to close the Oklahoma state Capitol amid global health concerns caused by COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus.

Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall said Thursday state leaders are closely monitoring the situation, but do not have any plans to close the building or limit who can enter. 

"We are talking with the governor and the executive (branch) about contingencies on traffic here in the Capitol," he said. "As of right now, we’re not suspending any tours or asking anybody not to visit the Capitol." 

Congress announced plans Thursday to close the U.S. Capitol buildings to the public until April as the coronavirus continues to spread. 

The situation is fluid, McCall said. State leaders are taking their cues from health professionals at the Oklahoma State Department of Health and are trying to avoid causing Oklahomans to panic, he said. 

Heeding experts' advice and continuing to monitor the coronavirus situation to see if the virus is spreading in Oklahoma will be key to making future decisions about allowing visitors in the Capitol, House Minority Leader Emily Virgin said. 

"After meeting with the speaker, I think he is taking it seriously," she said. "I stressed that we need to keep monitoring the situation and that we need to consider limiting public access to the Capitol if we find out more. if the spread is more local and certainly, if we have any confirmed cases at the Capitol."

Should the coronavirus situation grow worse, the Legislature is prepared to appropriate state funds to help, McCall said. But there has been no specific ask for any funds at this time, he said. 

State legislators are about halfway through the legislative session that typically ends in late May. When legislators are in session, the Capitol building often is flooded with lobbyists, tour groups and visiting Oklahomans from across the state. 

"We want to convey to the people of the state of Oklahoma that the government is not going to shut down," McCall said. "That we are working to stay ahead of this problem." 

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Related Photos
Oklahoma flags fly at half staff at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Tuesday June, 14  2016. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma flags fly at half staff at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Tuesday June, 14 2016. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-073241f217939e27cc655ba8e6a09a9b.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma flags fly at half staff at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Tuesday June, 14 2016. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman" title="Oklahoma flags fly at half staff at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Tuesday June, 14 2016. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Oklahoma flags fly at half staff at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Tuesday June, 14 2016. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
Carmen Forman

Carmen Forman covers the state Capitol and governor's office for The Oklahoman. A Norman native and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she previously covered state politics in Virginia and Arizona before returning to Oklahoma. Read more ›

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