The data is in and clear: Cities without mask mandates are the leading edge in the state’s top ranking in COVID-19 infections.
It is time for statewide mask requirements tailored to protect communities with the highest infection rates but leaving alone those where there is no danger.
By the way, that’s not very many places. Oklahoma’s alert system has shown as many as 70 out of 77 counties rate as high-spread risks.
The need is most urgent in the Tulsa metropolitan area where a piecemeal approach has worsened the pandemic and undercut the health care system’s ability to deal with the challenge.
If Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to shirk his leadership responsibilities, then city leaders, especially the large metropolitan suburbs, must step up.
The positive effect of Tulsa residents wearing masks is undercut by their suburban neighbors who do not. We all share one health care system. Attention, suburban officials: Lives are at stake — the lives of your constituents.
Want evidence? Last week, the Oklahoma weekly epidemiologist report found parts of the state without mask mandates experienced an 88% increase in infections, compared to a 21% rise in cities with ordinances, which are the largest metro areas.
This coincides with Tulsa hospital officials saying the vast majority of hospitalizations are patients from outside the city and where no masks are required in public.
For months, advocacy groups, doctors and health practitioners have pushed for mask mandates. Now, a united front has formed.
The Healthier Oklahoma Coalition — made up of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Oklahoma Hospital Association, the Oklahoma Nurses Association and other groups — is calling for a statewide mask mandate.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force has urged Gov. Kevin Stitt to implement a statewide mask order for weeks.
The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy launched an aggressive campaign to get the Oklahoma State Board of Education to require masks in school buildings, which seems obvious, although the state school board failed to grasp that when it had the opportunity.
Mask mandates never should have become politicized. The questions never should have been made dependent on personal responsibility or wrapped around arguments of personal freedom.
All of those tangents have resulted in rapidly rising infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
The past cannot change, but we can do better moving forward.
Masks work to curb the pandemic’s spread. Law-abiding people will wear a mask when required.
Oklahomans need to stop fighting mask mandates and start fighting the COVID-19 virus. We know how, if our leaders will only show the way.
Gallery: COVID-19 basics
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