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When all of this is behind us, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should open a coronavirus museum at its Atlanta campus, including a research library so that future generations can recoil at the staggering incompetence and maliciousness with which leaders addressed the pandemic. 

And a wing should be named after Gov. Kevin Stitt, complete with a bronze bust of the governor, unmasked with his mouth hanging open. 

This week, Stitt both engaged in utterly irresponsible behavior and defensive messaging about his health policy. 

On Sept. 15, in a close-contact meeting with voters at Hoboken Coffee Roasters in Guthrie, the governor promoted the reelection campaign of State Rep. Garry Mize, R-31, who voted on May 14 to exempt individuals from liability if they expose people around them to COVID-19. 

Photographs posted on social media showed Stitt, who announced in mid-July that he contracted the virus, standing without a mask within two feet of people who chose to be around him that day. Considering that reinfections are now being reported, how confident is Stitt that he will not contract the virus again nor spread it to someone in his orbit?

Opinion by George D. Lang

Stitt then spent Thursday morning in a COVID-19 briefing with state health commissioner Lance Frye, during which he once again preached the gospel of personal responsibility and told journalists they were reporting the wrong numbers, all while Oklahoma is now the No. 4 state for COVID-19 test positivity and Craig County in northeastern Oklahoma has the highest coronavirus case rate in the entire nation. 

The governor’s cluelessness at the press event was nothing short of astounding. Not only did Stitt criticize reporters for reporting the test positivity rate of 11.3 percent — a number published by his own state health department, but he argued that a recent Johns Hopkins University report of 8.58 percent should be used instead. 

That is some desperate, flop-sweaty cherry-picking that is still well above the World Health Organization’s recommendation of a 5 percent positivity rate for reopening. 

Additionally, StateImpact Oklahoma health journalist Catherine Sweeney reported that Frye told college students to “Stay where you are,” and  “We don’t want you to take this back to your communities, to your families,” and that the increase in cases was likely due to the reopening of public schools and universities. 

Like President Donald Trump, Stitt insisted that schools open against nearly every recommendation from credible public health experts. 

“I believe having the option to attend school in-person is essential for so many reasons,” Stitt said. 

So, this increase is because of Stitt’s failed leadership, And like Trump, Stitt refuses to take responsibility for exacerbating the virus’ spread in Oklahoma. 

Also this week, The Frontier reported that State Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, invited two anti-vaccination ophthalmologists, Dr. Jim Meehan and Dr. Chad Chamberlain, to speak before the state House of Representatives’ public health committee. 

“Medical masks won’t work— there’s no sense in using them,” Meehan said on Sept. 15. 

According to The Frontier, Meehan also told the committee that people of color are less able to fight off COVID-19 because higher skin pigmentation keeps the sun from killing the virus. Meehan is also a Qanon follower who lists the “#WWG1WGA” (“where we go one, we go all”) hashtag on his Twitter account. 

Why are conspiracy theorists being lent credence by Oklahoma legislators? Why are Oklahoma leaders listening to claims about the incidence of COVID-19 among people of color that sound like early 20th-century eugenics arguments? 

The day after Meehan spoke before the committee, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee. Redfield told lawmakers, including U.S. Senator James Lankford, that masks are the best current defense against the virus, and it is unlikely we will receive an effective vaccine for COVID-19 before July 2021. 

This might not mean much to anti-vaxxers like Stitt and Meehan, but it tells people in the real world that many more of us will die unless our leaders start taking COVID-19 seriously and stop playing political keep-away with the facts. 

Stitt is playing games with the health of our state. Oklahomans need a cure for coronavirus, but we also need a cure from the political stupidity that Stitt and his anti-science squad is inflicting on us all.

Last Updated September 17, 2020, 6:12 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor