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Gov. Kevin Stitt praises Texas governor for lifting mask mandate, business restrictions

Gov. Kevin Stitt gives a thumbs up to the gallery as he delivers his State of the State Address in the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020.  [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]
Gov. Kevin Stitt gives a thumbs up to the gallery as he delivers his State of the State Address in the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday praised Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for lifting the state’s mask mandate, despite health officials urging states to continue COVID-19 mitigation efforts

In an opinion column in conservative news outlet The Daily Caller, Stitt said “statewide mask mandates have done little to flatten the curve,” even though a study from Oklahoma’s state epidemiologist showed COVID-19 transmission decreased in localities with mask mandates.

“Despite constant criticism from the media and the left, I never once entertained a mask mandate here in Oklahoma. I always trusted Oklahomans to do the right thing and keep each other safe. And they have,” Stitt wrote in the piece titled, “I Agree With Gov. Abbott — That’s Why Oklahoma Reopened Last Summer.”

Stitt has repeatedly resisted calls to impose a statewide mask mandate. He often brags that Oklahoma was one of the first states to ease its COVID-related business restrictions, a decision he now says led to the state's lower unemployment rate and a more than $1 billion surplus in state coffers.

In the column, Stitt also praised Abbott for announcing Texas businesses would be able to open at 100% capacity next week, at the same time the mask mandate would be lifted.

Stitt encouraged other governors to follow Abbott’s lead.

Rollbacks of COVID-19 restrictions in Texas and Mississippi came shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against easing COVID-19 restrictions.

President Joe Biden, a Democrat, on Wednesday called decisions to end mask mandates in Texas and Mississippi "a big mistake."

Biden touted progress with the nationwide vaccine rollout, but said masks still make a difference in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

As Americans wait to get vaccinated, “the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that, in the meantime, everything is fine, take off your mask,” Biden said.

Oklahoma's COVID-19 statistics are trending in the right direction. COVID-19 hospitalizations and new infections have dropped significantly in the past month.

Although, the state's count of COVID-19 deaths dramatically increased Wednesday to 7,035 after the Oklahoma State Department of Health changed how it's reporting those figures.

Oklahoma has also consistently ranked among the top states for administering COVID-19 vaccines.

But local health professionals have stressed the importance of maintaining COVID-19 mitigation strategies, especially as more easily transmissible strains of the virus have been detected in the state.

On Tuesday, Dr. Aaron Wendelboe, epidemiologist and OU College of Public Health professor, urged Oklahoma localities to keep their mask ordinances. He projected if the current mask ordinances hold for another three months, Oklahoma could avoid 46,000 COVID-19 cases, 2,500 hospitalizations and more than 450 deaths.

"I can’t overemphasize the mitigation strategies that we’re using continue to buy us time to vaccinate Oklahomans," he said.

Reporter Carmen Forman covers state government and politics for The Oklahoman. Send story tips to or connect on Twitter with @CarmenMForman. Support her work, and the work of other Oklahoman journalists, by purchasing a print or digital subscription today at

Carmen Forman

Carmen Forman covers the state Capitol and governor's office for The Oklahoman. A Norman native and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she previously covered state politics in Virginia and Arizona before returning to Oklahoma. Read more ›