This past Wednesday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt turned a lot of heads when he wrote a quick opinion piece for the Daily Caller praising Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for “lifting his mask mandate and reopening Texas’ economy.” He claimed it is “the right thing to do” during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the next breath bragged that Oklahoma has been “open” since last June.
But should we really be bragging about Oklahoma when it comes to COVID-19?
Oklahoma is in the top 10 in the country for cases per 100,000 people in the U.S. since January 21, 2020. The state currently sits at number seven.
A recent KFOR report found that the number of COVID deaths being reported by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) differ by more than 2,500 deaths. It’s important to note, though, that OSDH Epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor told the news station the discrepancy may be due to the fact that the state takes their counts from people who were diagnosed with COVID before they died. The CDC doesn’t make that distinction.
“We’re talking about the CDC showing 6,881 Oklahoma COVID deaths and our state health department is showing 4,320 COVID deaths,” said Dr. George Monks, president of Oklahoma State Medical Association. “These numbers are so far off we may need an independent audit to try to find out what exactly is going on.”
Oklahoma hosted mass gathering during lockdown
Back in April of 2020, Gov. Stitt did issue a statewide closure of “non-essential” businesses. He stated at the time that “these next few weeks are going to be really critical to slowing the spread in Oklahoma.” By June, Oklahoma hosted the first mass-gathering event in the country for former President Donald Trump that more than 6,000 mostly mask-less supporters attended. In attendance was Herman Cain, 2012 GOP presidential candidate, who was hospitalized with “serious” symptoms less than two weeks after attending the event and later passed away.
Oklahoma’s cases per capita quickly trended upwards after the event and finally peaked in January of 2021, a full six months after Stitt “opened” Oklahoma.
Being responsible for a state’s wellbeing in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic is not an easy task. No matter what decision is made, there will always be critics. Hindsight is always 20/20 and looking back on the numbers per capita for Oklahoma, it’s not something Stitt should necessarily be bragging about. Ranking top 10 for something that has taken thousands of lives and caused long-term damage for many others is something that Stitt should humbly acknowledge. He should ensure Oklahomans that he is proactively doing what’s necessary to keep us safe.