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Okla. NAACP leader calls reopening state irresponsible

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Published 05/06/2020 | Reading Time 4 min 27 sec
Op-Ed | By Susan Porter, Health Committee Chair, Oklahoma State NAACP

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The Oklahoma State Conference National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), “Your Health Matters Campaign” Volume (3) – Due to Covid-19, is now managing varying levels of fear and concern among Oklahomans, and expectation of the state’s governmental leaders is elevated during this time of crisis.

The weekend following Oklahoma’s reopening, videos emerged showing citizens waiting outside of various malls. Garden stores had long lines, while parks were full of people taking advantage of the sunshine.

With that, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to open the state on May 1 is constantly questioned: Was this the best decision? Believably, this question is one of many initial thoughts among Oklahomans suffering and doing without, while awaiting a stimulus check, grant or loan for their businesses.TEDC Banner AdThroughout this process, Stitt recommended that people wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

City mayors utilized their autonomy to supersede the Stitt’s recommendations, which highlights the difference in leadership within our state.

Did Stitt’s decision to open the state come too soon?

Although the governor made the safety recommendations, some citizens followed them while others did not.

We learned that extenuating circumstances in some cities and towns resulted in the mayors deciding it best to lift the required face cover mandate after threats of violence were made against store employees.

Would it have been better to wait for an additional week or two of “safer at home” to allow more time for the virus to decline, as well as increased testing sites and time for mobile units to gather results?

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Perhaps, these allowable actions would yield greater results for Oklahomans to feel safe, while together, we re-integrate into spaces that we once occupied with ease. What we see is a system that is not working 100% for Oklahomans.

Had the governor worked with increased effort to ensure that small business owners receive the needed funding to keep their doors open — and limited the scope of reopening larger retail stores — perhaps the hesitance we see from some Oklahomans to re-enter common spaces would be less. We do realize the urgency to rebuild the economy, but not at disturbing cost.

The reality is that many small businesses did not receive the first round of financing from the CARES Act. They are still waiting for relief.

We have hard-working Oklahomans struggling financially while continuing to wait on unemployment.

It is irresponsible for our state to move forward without a well-thought-out plan to protect our residents from an out of control pandemic.

It is irresponsible to ignore the barriers that exist in our unemployment system.

It is irresponsible to do nothing about the lack of health care facilities in minority and lower-income communities.

It is irresponsible to widen the gap between insured and uninsured Oklahomans.

As citizens, we look to our leaders to lead in both prospering times and during uncertainty.

Our vision of next-steps includes insured Oklahomans, increased access to healthcare facilities throughout our communities, provisions for PPE accessibility to small business owners, a comprehensive plan to prep our schools for COVID testing, careful consideration of hybrid learning for our youth in order to trim classroom sizes.

We are working tirelessly with our Health and Education Committee teams to formulate these practical next steps.

Your health affects your ability to provide for yourself and your loved ones. Do not leave your health and future to chance.

What we value, what we expect, and what we believe can be voiced at the polls on June 30 in the primary election.

An appropriate quote for such a time as this, is from the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhumane because it often results in physical death”.

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