The week began with some good, if belated, news on the COVID-19 transparency front, with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration publicizing the coronavirus reports Oklahoma gets from the White House.
None of the eight reports had been made public until Monday. They showed that since mid-July, Oklahoma has been in the “red zone” for infections, meaning it has seen more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population. The past two reports say Oklahoma should take steps such as implementing a statewide mask mandate, closing bars and limiting social gatherings.
Stitt asked that the reports be made public after some local officials said they weren’t getting the information. The Health Department has posted the reports to coronavirus.health.ok.gov and plans to continue doing so. It must. Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the more information available to the public and public officials, the better.
The number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma stood at 54,172 on Tuesday, an increase of 650 over the day before. It has become routine for the Health Department to report several hundred new positive cases per day. As of Tuesday, Oklahoma also had 744 COVID-19-related deaths.
According to the Health Department, cities with mask ordinances saw the rolling average of new COVID-19 cases fall by 47% during a recent three-week period. In locations without ordinances, new cases also fell, but by a smaller percentage — 28%.
A study by MyHealth Access Network found the positivity rate — the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases — dropped by 7.57% after 14 days of having a mask policy in effect, and by 5.73% after 21 days.
The head of the Oklahoma State Medical Association is among those who continue to push for Stitt to impose a statewide mask mandate. “They’re absolutely working,” Dr. George Monks said last week. Stitt has consistently rejected the idea of issuing a statewide mandate, saying it would be difficult to enforce and preferring that decisions about mandates be made locally.
A public health advisory by Interim Health Commissioner Lance Frye recommends face coverings be worn in public by anyone 11 or older who lives in a county classified as orange or red in the state’s color-coded COVID-19 alert system. Thirty counties are orange. Meanwhile, many cities, including Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman, have implemented mask mandates.