Oklahoma governor: No mandate masks despite recommendation

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
09/21/2020 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
In this Aug. 18, 2020 file photo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt answers a question on Aug. 18 during a news conference at the Central Oklahoma PPE distribution warehouse in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma had the fifth highest rate of newly reported coronavirus cases in September, according to a report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force report released on Sept. 16, and the task force is again recommending a statewide mandate require masks. SUE OGROCKI/ASSOCATED PRESS
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt reiterated Sept. 17 that he will not issue a statewide mask mandate, despite a recommendation from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. 

“I’ve been very clear from the beginning that I believe a mask mandate is unenforceable and I’m not going to mandate something that I don’t think you can enforce,” Stitt said. 

Stitt said he supports individual cities in the state that have issued mask-wearing mandates, which include Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman.

“We think that’s a local decision and I’m not going to mandate that statewide because I don’t think there’s a one size fits all approach to this virus,” he said.

The tasks force’s weekly report has, with the exception of one week, since early August repeatedly recommended a statewide mask mandate. Stitt, who has encouraged mask wearing, said he does not believe a mandate is enforceable and should be a decision made by individual cities.

Stitt also took issue with the task force’s report that Oklahoma is fifth in the nation in the number of positive virus cases.

“We’re nowhere close to number fifth in the country, so that’s one thing that we’re going to make a phone call to the White House and find out exactly where they’re getting their numbers,” Stitt said. 

The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Sept. 17 reported 73,318 total confirmed virus cases and 930 deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, increases of 1,034 cases and six more deaths than reported on Sept. 16. The actual number of cases is likely higher, though, because many people haven’t been tested and some people who have the disease don’t show symptoms.

There are 10,274 active virus cases and 1,088 people have recovered, according to the health department’s report.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Stitt also announced that the anti-inflammatory drug remdesivir, which has been shown to reduce the time to recovery, defined as being well enough to leave the hospital, by four days on average, is now being sent to hospitals in Oklahoma to treat those hospitalized with COVID-19.

“(It) is really starting to show promising signs of helping people ... there’s an ample supply of this drug in the state of Oklahoma,” Stitt said, and is being shipped to various hospitals in the state.

Earlier this year the state spent $2 million to purchase supplies of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump to treat coronavirus patients, despite warnings from doctors that more research is needed.

The drug, as a treatment for the virus, has proven ineffective, said Dr. Doug Drevets, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center.

“It has fallen out of favor because there are several well-designed, randomized, controlled, and some of our placebo-controlled trials that show it does not work either to treat or to prevent COVID-19,” Drevets said.

Interim state Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said the hydroxychloroquine is now in storage.

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