State House Democrats Push For Statewide Mask Mandate, Special Session

Tuesday, November 10th 2020, 5:16 pm

Democrats in the state House of Representatives are pressuring their Republican colleagues and the governor to do more to combat COVID-19. 

House Democrats said with the increase Oklahoma has seen in COVID-19 cases, now is the time for a mask mandate and for the legislature to return in special session. 

“There have been more than 1,400 COVID deaths in Oklahoma, and the governor has not come up with a single plan to keep that number from getting to 2,000. This is a total failure in leadership,” said state Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, House Minority Leader.

So Democrats say they have a plan. 

A statewide mask mandate and a special session so the Legislature can extend Senate Bill 661, allowing public meetings to be conducted virtually.

“There’s no reason we should force public bodies and the citizens participating in these meetings to revert back to physical meetings when this provision has served everyone very well during the time of COVID," Virgin said.

Gov. Kevin Stitt urges Oklahomans to wear masks, but hasn’t mandated their use. 

Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, released a statement: 

“Masks are an effective way to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and each of us should wear one when it is appropriate. Local governments are best suited to decide whether and when to implement a mask mandate and local officials should consider taking that step if the health care situation in their community warrants it.”

House Republican leaders did not respond to a request for a comment.

“The state's own epidemiology report shows that the virus is spreading slower in communities with mask orders than in those without. The governor is, frankly, running out of excuses for his failed leadership and Oklahomans are dying as he does," Virgin said.

Without a special session, the Legislature is scheduled to reconvene in February.