Posted Date: 11/20/2020
Union Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler: It is time to do the right thing. Mask up, Oklahoma:
One of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s stated goals while combating COVID-19 is ensuring all Oklahoma students return to in-person learning by the end of the Christmas break.
This is certainly a worthy goal that most educational leaders, students, parents and school board members would like to accomplish.
As with most worthy goals in life, they don’t happen by accident. They are accomplished through discipline, personal sacrifice and a relentless pursuit.
It’s not enough to wish students back to school. It’s going to require a dramatic change in public behavior. Like it or not, that means a mask mandate in all public places.
Stitt, however, has argued in favor of “personal responsibility” when it comes to face coverings.
“As far as a mandate, I’ve been very clear I don’t think that’s the right thing to do,” Stitt has said. “This is a personal responsibility. This is pleading with people to do the right thing.”
I, too, like to believe in the power of people to do the right thing. Oklahoma’s sad reality, however — and skyrocketing COVID-19 cases — is a strong indication that people are not willing to do the right thing.
Why plead? Why not just issue an executive order and make it so? It has been successfully mandated in other red states.
Stitt cites the importance of local control, but that’s not working well for us. As a school district, Union Public Schools is snuggled between Tulsa (with a mask mandate) and Broken Arrow (no mandate). The lack of consistency statewide, with neighboring suburbs going different directions, has contributed to the spread. Our district, along with others, is back to distance learning due to rising COVID-19 numbers, as well as a lack of substitute teachers.
This we know: COVID-19 does not care about one’s ideology, religion, ZIP code, health, socioeconomic status or politics. At last count, we have more than 1,500 Oklahomans who have died from the virus. Without deliberate action, we will add significantly to the toll over the coming months, until we have a vaccine.
It is time we rally together to stave off the impending effects of this disease. If no action is taken by our governor now, we will face even more dire consequences. Already, our overburdened health care systems are feeling the pinch, along with our places of worship, schools and our economy.
Stitt made a good move recently in requiring all state employees and visitors to wear masks in state buildings. Now it’s time for an even bolder move and require them of all Oklahomans in public places.
This is a public health issue, not a political issue. In a rational world, personal freedom and selfishness should take a back seat to saving lives. The sad truth . . . we can’t count on people to do the right thing.
So, let’s help with personal responsibility by issuing a statewide mask mandate. Not only will it save more lives — it will get our students back in school after the winter break.
JUST IN: Today, another 357 children in Oklahoma have been diagnosed with COVID-19.— OK State Dept of Ed (@oksde) November 20, 2020
Oklahoma is in the midst of an alarming surge in coronavirus cases, including pediatric cases.
Please wear a mask, wash your hands, socially distance & stay home as much as possible. 😷 #oklaed pic.twitter.com/RqA0TtZFhi