Virus has local, state leaders on alert

Coronavirus outbreak, flu cases demonstrate need to wash hands, stay home if sick


By Conrad Dudderar

Senior Staff Writer

If State. Rep. Rhonda Baker doesn’t shake your hand, don’t think she’s trying to be rude.

Baker, the Yukon Republican who represents House District 60 in the Oklahoma Legislature, says her hesitancy about touching constituents’ hands has everything to do with health and safety.

Rep. Baker talked about the coronavirus and how the pandemic is affecting Oklahoma during a monthly gathering this week of Yukon-area business, government and community leaders.

There are more than 90,000 global cases and the virus has killed more than 3,500 people.

Although no confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported in the Sooner State, Oklahoma lawmakers are cautious.

“At the (state) Capitol, we have so many people come in and shake our hands,” Rep. Baker said during Tuesday morning’s Yukon Legislative Breakfast. “We’re just around so many people all the time. We have even been pulled aside and told it would probably not be a great idea to continue to do the hand shaking.”

State lawmakers are letting the public know that they’d love to greet them – but shaking hands should be kept to a minimum.

“We’ve learned to use our elbows,” Rep. Baker said. “If you see us doing that on the (Capitol) floor, it’s not that we’re goofy. That’s what we’ve been told to do … so lots of handwashing. It’s just been very interesting to see how people have had to try to change their habits.”

The U.S. House of Representatives was due to consider an emergency supplemental funding package this week that would provide $7-$8 billion to be used to pay for vaccine development, stockpiling masks and diagnostics.


ICVH CEO Teresa Gray

Teresa Gray, CEO of Integris Canadian Valley Hospital, reiterated the need for people to wash their hands – and “stay home” if they’re sick.

The Yukon hospital is seeing a “huge, huge influx” of influenza A cases, with the virus keeping its beds full.

“Enough that we’ve been beyond capacity,” Gray said at Tuesday’s Yukon Chamber of Commerce breakfast. “Flu A is making its appearance bigger and better than ever in the last two weeks.

“We did see some discharges over the weekend, and we were thinking that maybe it’s going to wind down. But our report this morning shows that we’re still full. And most of those are respiratory and influenza A.”

In closing, Yukon pediatrician Dr. Alecia Hanes said it’s “not too late” for residents to get flu shots.