Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt again stopped imposing a statewide mask mandate on Monday, becoming the latest governor to put new restrictions in place – but not one that, according to experts, is crucial in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
The governors of Iowa, Nebraska and Idaho have also held press conferences in recent weeks to announce new measures in response to ever higher coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations. But they have all refused to implement a general statewide mask mandate – an issue that has become needlessly politicized.
Stitt, a Republican, has resisted the statewide mask requirement for months, even after Trump’s White House coronavirus task force recommended the move earlier this year. With the state’s coronavirus situation worsening on Monday, the governor made a small concession, ordering all state employees to “wear a mask in common areas or when around people at work.” .
The move would cover 33,000 employees across Oklahoma, while masks will also be mandatory for people visiting state buildings. In other moves, Stitt also said the state will soon require restaurants and bars to close at 11 p.m. and restaurant tables to be 6 feet apart or have “sanitized dividers.”
“We’ve been fully reopened for six months now,” Stitt told reporters at Monday’s press conference. “But recently we’ve seen our numbers start to climb … based on our condition data, particularly the increase in hospitalizations, now is the time to do more.”
This weekend, the country experienced its 11th million cases of COVID-19, with 1 million of those diagnoses in just six days. All states but a handful have reported new records in coronavirus measurements in the past week – and the numbers are only expected to get worse as many Americans ignore calls from public health officials and rally for the winter holidays.
Circumstances became so dire that Doug Burgum of North Dakota threw in the towel last week and announced the statewide order for masks that his state’s health professionals had. begged to set up. He followed Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who days earlier had ordered residents to wear masks in public when they were around other people.
“Masks do not negatively affect our economy and wearing them is the easiest way to slow the spread of the virus. Experts tell us that masks don’t cause oxygen shortage in your brain or cause disease, ”Herbert said at the time. “We can no longer afford to debate this issue. Individual freedom is certainly important and it is our rule of law that protects this freedom. “
But others maintain their resistance to orders for masks statewide, even as studies show the masks work. Researchers at the University of Kansas discovered last month that Kansas counties with mask warrants have seen “a 50% reduction in the spread of COVID-19 compared to those without “.
As Stitt refuses to go that far, the White House Coronavirus Task Force has issued a warning about the leadership of the state amid the recent outbreak. Federal officials warned in a Nov. 8 state report that “the inflexible spread of COVID across Oklahoma continues with new hospital admissions, inpatients and intensive care patients at record levels , indicating a deeper spread across the state.
“The most recent trends, showing steep slopes for all indicators, require immediate action, including mask requirements to reduce the severity of morbidity and mortality among Oklahomans,” the task force said in The report.
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