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As President Donald Trump dismisses objective reality with a phalanx of attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci, leader of Trump’s own Coronavirus Task Force, Gov. Kevin Stitt is committing gubernatorial malpractice by refusing to mandate masks.

On Tuesday, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma climbed to 993, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began. And yet, Stitt is still balking at meaningful action.

Opinion

Opinion

by George Lang, opinion writer for Free Press

As a state, Oklahoma is taking fewer precautions than it was in April when the daily increases had yet to break 175, and Stitt still wants to leave it to individuals to protect public health.

“Great to be on the phone with @VP to discuss the latest updates on #COVID19 in our nation,” Stitt tweeted on July 13. “We still need all Oklahomans to do their part to slow the spread of this virus. Please take personal responsibility to protect yourself, your family, & our most vulnerable from this virus.”

In a single tweet, Stitt discredited himself by taking cues from Vice President Mike Pence, who cannot make a statement addressing coronavirus without supplicating himself to Trump, and he told Oklahoma residents that we are on our own.

That tweet came one day after the state Department of Health announced the first death of a child from coronavirus in Oklahoma. Anna Carter, 13, died July 10, just one hour after arriving at Comanche County Memorial Hospital in Lawton.

Stitt offered condolences in a statement, but he once again reiterated that “personal responsibility” is all that stands between Oklahomans and catastrophic illness.

“This news is a difficult reminder that COVID-19 can affect Oklahomans of any age and stresses the need for each of us to continue to do our part to slow the spread of the virus,” Stitt said.

I can think of one person who could have done his part to “slow the spread of the virus.” This person could have waited for a meaningful flattening of the curve before executing one of the earliest state openings in the country.

On April 22, after barely one month of closure, Stitt impetuously announced a plan to reopen Oklahoma businesses starting two days later, when barbershops, hair salons and nail salons — you know, places where social distancing is absolutely impossible — could resume operations.

Stitt
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt makes comments during a press conference April 17, 2020 as he prepared to start reopening. Dr. Kayse Shrum is in the background. (Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press)

Stitt apparently believed that the businesses where people are physically closest to their clients were the most important to reviving the state economy.

One week later, he threw the doors open for restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, churches and entertainment facilities, provided they followed the CDC-recommended guidelines that he refused to model in his public, anti-masking behavior.

If Stitt wanted to, he could sign an executive order mandating masks. Even Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did that on July 2, but as recently as June 25, Stitt was insisting to reporters that “I’m always reluctant to mandate things because it’s about freedom, it’s about personal responsibility.”

“Personal responsibility” is obviously a sliding scale. This month, a grown-ass “Karen” threw an explosive temper tantrum at the Skecher’s store on Memorial Road, launching shoeboxes at an employee who insisted that she follow the posted rules for wearing masks.

Stitt’s lack of a mask mandate allows people to behave like this because making public health a personal responsibility gives people a free pass on personal irresponsibility. It gives them a license to kill passively, without fear of imprisonment.

You know who preaches the gospel of personal responsibility?

People who made millions by issuing subprime, adjustable-rate mortgages to people with less-than-optimal credit. When those homeowners are foreclosed upon, such lenders invoke caveat emptor and wash their hands of any guilt in the cratering of those people’s lives. After all, they were personally responsible for accepting the loan.

This is what to expect from a governor who acts like the only books he ever read were Atlas Shrugged and The Children’s Bible.

We elected a subprime lender to the highest office in the state, and Stitt is using the same philosophy that made him an exceedingly rich man to take a pass on protecting his constituency.

Now, it appears that 1,000+ daily new cases of coronavirus will be Oklahoma’s new normal. The policy of personal responsibility will not make this go away, and it seems like the only things Stitt’s policy has achieved are unnecessary deaths including one child and a visit from Trump.


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