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Stitt Reiterates He Thinks Mask Mandate Is Not the Right Policy

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In a coronavirus update with Gov. Kevin Stitt Tuesday afternoon, health officials pleaded with Oklahomans to wear masks.

Integris Chief Medical Officer Dr. Julie Watson invoked the values she learned growing up outside of Checotah.

"Oklahomans help Oklahomans, and right now, that means wearing a mask. I tell you this in all sincerity, Oklahoma. We are in trouble. Our local and state health care resources are approaching their limits," Watson said.

"Our worst nightmare right now for any one of us physicians or health care workers is having to choose between a patient in a car accident and a patient with COVID."

Stitt acknowledged things are tough for health care workers right now and said the best way to support them is slowing the spread of COVID-19 with frequent hand washing, social distancing and wearing masks.

"But as far as a mandate, I’ve been very clear that I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. This is a personal responsibility. This is pleading with people to do the right thing," Stitt said.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye called on Oklahomans to avoid large gatherings as well. He also gave an update on a coronavirus vaccine.

"Probably by early December we’re going to start having that available for our most vulnerable population and our health care workers," Frye said.

Some timelines have said the end of 2020 is possible if there are no delays, and there will likely be enough doses of vaccine at first for only 15 million to 20 million Americans.

Meanwhile, Stitt said hospitals are working together to manage capacity and there’s no need for steps like delaying some surgeries right now.

"I’m ready to issue an executive order any time Dr. Frye tells me we need more space," Stitt said.

Stitt said state boards have been directed to fast-track licensing of recently graduated and out-of-state nurses in order to help hospitals with staffing shortages.

The state’s seven-day average of new cases, hospitalizations and active cases all hit new highs again in the past day, and 1,451 Oklahomans are dead.

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