OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A mandate to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus will not be imposed statewide in Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Tuesday, despite the White House coronavirus task force’s recommendation for such a rule.
“We believe that you should wear masks,” Stitt said during a news conference in Stillwater in which he called for residents to also follow recommendations to socially distance and frequently wash hands.
“A mask mandate is something I that believe we should leave to the local communities … I believe that’s a local control (decision) and I’m not going to mandate something statewide,” Stitt said. “Every community is different.”
The White House task force has since early August recommended a statewide mask mandate, closing bars and limiting occupancy in restaurants.
More than a dozen cities in the state have enacted mask mandates, including the three largest; Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Tuesday reported 59,399 coronavirus cases and 809 deaths due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, up from 58,733 reported cases and 800 deaths on Monday.
The actual number of cases in Oklahoma is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
“Each one of us has a reason to do our part to slow the spread,” Stitt said. “Maybe it’s to get our kids back to school, maybe it’s to protect yourself or a vulnerable family member.”
For most people, the new 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.
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