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We're all responsible for stemming tide of COVID-19

Gov. Kevin Stitt
Gov. Kevin Stitt

Some have criticized Gov. Kevin Stitt’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in Oklahoma — in particular, contending he hasn’t acted aggressively enough to dictate policies that will “flatten the curve.”

An example is Democratic Rep. Emily Virgin of Norman, minority leader in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, who complained that while the Trump administration is advising governors to handle the issue in their states, Stitt “is telling mayors to handle it.” Yet it’s Democrats who complain the loudest when the Republican-controlled Legislature forwards bills that remove control from municipalities.

The reality is that government alone will not flatten the curve — individuals must take many of the most important steps.

That said, Stitt's calling his order this week a "Safer at Home" directive could confuse some people, as it differs little from the "shelter in place" orders put in place by roughly 20 governors. Straight talk in this situation beats semantics every time.

After refusing for a week or so to institute sweeping restrictions, Stitt changed course Tuesday, amid a continued increase in the number of positive COVID-19 tests and medical groups urging he do more. New restrictions include closing nonessential businesses in all counties with a COVID-19 case, banning social gatherings of 10 or more people, and telling those older than 65 and those with serious underlying medical conditions to stay home.

The shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders vary around the country. Michigan residents, for example, are to avoid all nonessential travel and stay at home, but may leave for limited, necessary activities — and can walk, hike, run and partake in other recreational activities so long as they practice social distancing.

Other states, such as Illinois and Oregon, have closed off public access to their state parks. Some locales have closed their public playgrounds, hiking trails and beaches.

It would be discouraging to see similar rules enacted across Oklahoma. People need to be able to get a little fresh air now and again, and outdoor spaces should be less harmful than locations where the public are still allowed even under shelter-at-home orders, such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

This is where personal responsibility rises to the fore. Norman’s mayor announced a stay-at-home order, effective Wednesday and extending for 21 days, that prohibits nonessential trips and gatherings, but the city’s spokeswoman said it won’t be strictly enforced. They’re banking on their residents doing the right thing.

Kudos to Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt who jumped in early to close restaurants and bars. Though is carries the possibility of legal and monetary penalties for violations, we haven't seen any.

As the number of positive cases increases, and the death toll rises, Stitt may resort to more sweeping measures. If so, he needs to lay them out plainly. Ultimately, however, it falls to each of us — by keeping our distance, washing our hands regularly, etc. If we all do our part, there will be less need for government fiat to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›

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