Contact Gov. Stitt
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:
- The CDC has identified 66 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties as being in the high to substantial transmission areas for the virus.
- Initial studies show that COVID-19’s delta variant spreads more easily than the original strain. This is especially true for unvaccinated individuals.
- Children under the age of 12 are more susceptible to the virus because they cannot be vaccinated; as a result, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatricians have both recommended universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. Allowing schools to require mask-wearing better supports in-person learning for all students, including those who may be immunocompromised.
- Only 2 out of every 5 Oklahomans are fully vaccinated. While our elderly population has a relatively high vaccination rate around 75 percent, only about 1 in 6 Oklahoma children age 12-17 are fully vaccinated.
- Hospitalizations in Oklahoma are climbing at rates we haven’t seen since the peak of last fall’s surge; if we continue on our current course, health officials predict we soon will be left without hospital capacity.
- There is growing concern in the medical community that COVID infections will be causing long-term damage and may become a “mass disabling event.” If so, this will come at a great personal cost, but also a considerable expense for taxpayers. With increased precautions today, we can minimize future risks and costs.
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.