OKLAHOMA CITY — The state Capitol will reopen to the general public again when the Legislature reconvenes Monday, but visitors will still face restrictions for at least the next two weeks.
Events, tours and large groups still will be banned when the building reopens 10 a.m. Monday.
Legislative office visits will be limited to appointment only, officials said. The House and Senate lobbies will be closed. Access to meeting rooms, galleries and other areas will be controlled to ensure social distancing. Legislative chambers will operate with reduced staffing. At-risk employees will work remotely.
“Capitol access is being phased in cautiously just like Oklahoma’s reopening is being phased in cautiously,” said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, in a statement. “If you truly need to be at the Capitol, you can be there under health precautions, and if you do not need to be there, be safe and watch online.”
All visitors will be screened for COVID-19, and those who do not pass it will be denied entry.
Visitors also are urged to bring and wear their own masks.
The building and the ongoing legislative session has been closed to the public since mid-March — around the same time three Capitol employees and two lawmakers tested positive for the deadly virus.
“The building will be safe for everyone under the health and safety guidelines, and our infectious disease and public health experts will be on-site to lead the implementation of the reopening plan,” said Dr. Jason Sanders, vice president and provost at OU Health Sciences Center. The sciences center helped develop the protocols.
Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said their staff and the public will be in “good hands” under the revised guidelines.
Republican leaders said they’d discuss plans for the rest of the session Monday. House lawmakers planned to convene 1:30 p.m. Monday, while the Senate planned to meet as early as 8 a.m.
House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said she expected legislative action the first week back to be limited to COVID-19-related bills.
“There are some issues that have come up that are directly related to COVID,” she said. “I think we’re going to want to take care of those first and get back to the bills that had been stalled in the process when we left.”
Virgin said lawmakers only will consider a limited number of stalled measures. They’re slated to adjourn at the end of the month.
Lawmakers also must pass a balanced budget by the end of May, so they’re waiting on that to be finished, she said.
Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.