Gov. Kevin Stitt has consistently opposed mandating masks on a statewide level to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, citing issues of individual freedom, but on Thursday he said he does believe that local-level mask mandates throughout Oklahoma are at least partially responsible for a recent downward trend in new infections.
"I would have to dig into the data, but absolutely, all that stuff goes into the reason that we're seeing a drop across the state," Stitt said. "The social distancing, the working from home, just Oklahomans being cautious with how we're fist-bumping and staying socially distanced, I think all of that goes into effect."
Stitt made the remarks at a press conference in Tulsa on Thursday, at with Col. Lance Frye, commissioner of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, unveiled a public health advisory more strongly recommending, but not requiring, face coverings for the majority of Oklahomans.
Frye recently said that a statewide mask requirement would be "very difficult" to implement in Oklahoma due to the state having both urban and rural parts. He did not elaborate.
Oklahoma's seven-day rolling average has declined over recent days, though the case positivity rate for tests continues to be at an elevated level.
Stitt did not wear a mask at the Thursday press conference. Asked why, he told reporters, "Well, because I'm up and back and forth at the microphone. But I wore a mask when I came in."
The city of Tulsa requires face coverings under an ordinance signed by Mayor G.T. Bynum, who stood alongside the governor for much of the press conference.