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Tulsa World editorial: Gov. Stitt, Oklahoma needs a mask mandate now. The state's health and economic future are at risk

Tulsa World editorial: Gov. Stitt, Oklahoma needs a mask mandate now. The state's health and economic future are at risk

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Virus Outbreak Oklahoma

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.

We were unimpressed with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s COVID-19 executive orders earlier this week.

They are the latest examples of his failure to do necessary things to protect the people of Oklahoma during a deadly pandemic.

Starting Thursday, Stitt ordered bars to close at 11 p.m.; restaurants must do the same except for delivery and drive-through. He ordered tables in bars and restaurants to be at least 6 feet apart.

Stitt also ordered state employees to wear masks when working and in state buildings. State legislative leaders followed Stitt’s order with an announcement that the same rules would be in effect for lawmakers in the Capitol.

And that’s it.

Those are half-steps at best, some of which were already largely in place in our experience.

We’d say the governor’s orders were good so far as they went, but that thought is superseded by this one: They don’t go far enough. Not even close.

Oklahoma needs a mask mandate.

Anyone in an indoor public place should be wearing a mask. And the state should be using the force of law to compel compliance if necessary.

The need is especially urgent in the “red zone” portions of the state where pandemic numbers are the worst.

Because of the governor’s failure to lead, that has become an increasingly large portion of the state.

Masks work to slow the viral spread and mandates work to get more people wearing them. The evidence is obvious if the governor would but look at it.

COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are on a constantly rising trajectory in Oklahoma. It seems every day some dreadful statistical record is broken. The state’s health care system is clearly straining under the pressure.

No less a conservative source than the White House COVID-19 task force has been urging a mask mandate on the state for months, but Stitt has ignored those calls along with the voices of the independent medical and scientific leaders of the state.

If the medical risk to the state were not enough — and it certainly should be — the governor should be acting in the economic best interests of the state.

Every day that Oklahoma fails to institute a mask mandate makes the potential of another pandemic shutdown more likely. If the governor wants to avoid that, and we all should, the solution is to do everything in his power now to make sure people in public are wearing masks.

Local control and personal responsibility are good ideals, but in an emergency we need decisive, legal, executive leadership. That was what Stitt promised when he ran for governor. That is what we expect.

Gov. Stitt, it’s time to act.


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