mask mandate
Woman wearing protective face mask buying grocery at a supermarket.
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Oklahoma parents hoping for a mask mandate in schools have been disappointed yet again by Governor Stitt. The public official has responded to calls for student mask mandates by using his often-repeated catch phrases about “personal responsibility” and “freedoms.”

Governor Stitt, who received the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on camera, has not yet addressed the widespread increase in COVID-19 cases across the state. St. Francis Healthcare System in Tulsa currently has three COVID-19 units, up from two last week. 

Oklahoma Senate Bill 658, which went into effect on July 1, prohibits any COVID-related mandates for students and educators in public schools. However, if Governor Stitt declares a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mandates can go into effect in school districts across the state.

Governor embraces personal responsibility

Noting that a lack of mask mandate does not preclude parents from sending their children to school with masks, Governor Stitt again spoke of personal responsibility. “The difference is, we’re not going to mandate that somebody else has to send their 4-year-old to school with a mask or someone else has to get their 4-year-old vaccinated,” he said. 

Governor Stitt’s flippant comments mischaracterized recommendations by the Center for Disease Control regarding a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC, the youngest age of child who can receive a vaccination is a 12-year-old. 

Less than 40% of adults in Oklahoma are fully vaccinated, despite the Oklahoma Department of Health’s vaccine portal showing plenty of open appointments, along with such stores as Walgreens and CVS. Over the last 7 days, COVID-19 cases have jumped across the state, with nearly 5000 new cases, an 80% increase from last week. The highly-contagious Delta variant is being blamed for the surge in COVID19 cases. 

Governor “proud” of how state has handled virus

Meanwhile, Governor Stitt has again placed the onus of responsibility for the public health crisis on individuals, encouraging citizens to take up the issue with their doctor or physician. 

The Oklahoma Governor also complimented citizens for how they have handled the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m so proud of Oklahomans, how we’ve handled this and we’ll continue to monitor this closely. And we’ll provide that transparent data with all of Oklahomans to make the best decisions for them and their families,” Stitt said during the same press conference. 

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...

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