Gov. Kevin Stitt says he won’t mandate that Oklahomans wear face masks in public to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
At a Wednesday press conference, Stitt said masks are a matter of personal preference with the option being maintaining an appropriate social distance.
It seems to us that for anyone going into a public place where they may not be able to maintain a safe distance, wearing a mask is a good deal more than a personal preference, and we think it’s the governor’s obligation to say so.
It’s actually a matter of personal responsibility.
There’s convincing evidence that if 80% of the population wore a proper mask, COVID-19 transmission could be halted until there is a vaccine.
If you wear a mask, you protect yourself somewhat from the virus. More important, if you wear a mask you protect others from germs you might be carrying unwittingly.
That means wearing a mask is a social and patriotic obligation, something we all should do for fellow Americans. Everyone going into places where they won’t be able to control their proximity to other people should do it, not as a preference, not as a mere fashion choice, but as a matter of social responsibility and enlightened self-interest.
What could Stitt have done differently? We point to Mayor G.T. Bynum’s recent statements that while he isn’t mandating masks in Tulsa, anyone who doesn’t do so is showing they lack concern for the people around them. That’s the sort of moral leadership on the issue we wish we had seen from the governor.
Masks aren’t normal or comfortable. They look strange in the mirror, strange on the faces of strangers. But they ought to be a normal part of ordinary life in public places for the time being.
We’d be in a much better place if our public officials would do more to emphasize that point and would set a good example by practicing what the health experts are preaching.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have set a bad example to the nation when they have appeared in public places without appropriate face coverings.
Even if he doesn’t want to make masks a matter of law, Stitt failed the public by not using his leadership position to emphasize the importance of masks and the obligation of each of us to use them to protect our fellow citizens.
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