An open letter to Gov. Stitt: This is a public health emergency

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Dear Gov. Stitt: 

Health officials statewide have been urgently raising the alarm that our communities need to take action to help protect Oklahomans’ health and safety from COVID-19, especially for our youngest children who are unable to be vaccinated. 

As the result of legislative action this spring, local leaders are able to exert local control and take certain proactive virus-fighting steps if — and only if — the governor declares a state of emergency. 

That time is now. 

The facts are these: 

As the vaccines began rolling out and hospitalizations subsided this spring, many Oklahomans may have been lulled into complacency with a false sense that the pandemic was over. Enjoying the normalcy of pre-pandemic times — such as going out in public without masks or dining in at our favorite restaurants — made things feel like they were back to “normal.” But, this was only a temporary illusion of safety. This pandemic is far from over.

However, experience has shown there are two proven tools that can slow this virus to manageable levels: getting vaccinated and wearing masks. 

Oklahomans need you to use your powerful platform to encourage mask wearing and to vigorously promote vaccination, especially among groups that may be hesitant. Every elected official and community leader should be shouting down misinformation about the vaccines, which are both safe AND our best weapon to fight the virus

But for Oklahoma to be fully effective in this fight, your fellow Oklahomans need you to declare a state of emergency that would allow local leaders to implement all available strategies to slow the viral spread. This move would not require you to implement a change, but makes available more lifesaving options to local authorities who are closest to the situation in their communities. 

The “personal responsibilities” argument that has been used during this discussion does not apply when we’re dealing with the health and welfare of our children who by their age and maturity lack the agency with which to make these decisions for themselves. The responsibility for their safety rests with each one of us. You, in particular, carry a unique and heavy responsibility for their well-being as the result of the extraordinary power our lawmakers granted you this spring. 

We urge you to fulfill your moral responsibility to do everything within your power to protect your fellow Oklahomans, especially our children. Their continued health and safety requires you to act today: It’s time for you to immediately declare a public health emergency.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Oklahoma Policy Insititute (OK Policy) advances equitable and fiscally responsible policies that expand opportunity for all Oklahomans through non-partisan research, analysis, and advocacy.

2 thoughts on “An open letter to Gov. Stitt: This is a public health emergency

  1. Thank you for your urgent appeal to the Governor to place the health and welfare of all Oklahomans above all political leanings. It is imperative that he use his platform now, especially as schools are to open soon.

  2. As a child and adolescent psychiatrist, I have seen the significant mental health impact this pandemic has had on youth in our state. I agree with the concern addressed in this letter and see that we as a community must do everything we can to minimize further impact of this pandemic on the state. We can not do this without your unwavering encouragement of vaccination for all those who are eligible as well as masking in all indoor environments at a minimum. The benefits of the vaccination far outweight the risks and masking will dramatically reduce transmission from asymptomatic carriers, vaccinated or not, to others. Our young children are at much greater risk with this highly transmissable Delta variant and the virus will continue to mutate as time goes on. Now is the time to act decisively. This is a health issue, not a political one.

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