On Aug. 28, ralliers gathered at the capitol building in Oklahoma City to protest a possible mask mandate. Three days later, the mandate failed to pass.
The rally, called the Freedom Rally, was organized “to protest mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates while fighting for [Oklahomans’] freedom to choose,” according to Koco News.
Several leaders of the rally, including Daniel Navejas, a speaker at the event, and Oklahoma GOP Chairman, John Bennett, expressed concern that mask mandates are a way of communism taking over the nation.
“It’s more of a plan-demic and a scam-demic,” Najevas said.
The large number of participants gathered at the capitol chanted “USA” and sang “America the Beautiful” without wearing masks. Navejas said he was “not worried at all” that the rally might turn into a super-spreader event.
Statistics show COVID-19 is rapidly spreading in Oklahoma.
According to The Oklahoman, “Transmissions are high, new hospital admissions are up 60% from the beginning of August and ICU bed occupancy has increased by 30% during the same time.”
House Minority Leader, Emily Virgin, said the misinformation perpetuated at events like the rally has a profound effect on the spread of COVID-19.
“What we’re seeing is misinformation, disinformation like this spreading across the country and especially across our state, and that’s leading to more COVID-19 infections, and, unfortunately, it’s leading to more people dying,” Virgin said.
Opinions on COVID-19 are often divided by party. Oklahoma State Medical Associations President, Mary Clarke, commented on this issue.
“COVID-19 is not, nor should it ever be, a partisan issue,” Clarke said.
Clarke said the mask mandate protects children too young to be vaccinated.
“As school returns, we should help protect those who are too young or immunocompromised by adopting scientifically proven techniques like masking, washing one’s hands and being safely vaccinated,” Clarke said.
Just before the council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 31, Dillon Richards, an Oklahoma capitol news reporter, said something similar in a tweet.
“Councilmember James Cooper says that the mask ordinance would be a stopgap to get us to the point when we have sufficient vaccination numbers, particularly to protect kids who cannot get vaccinated,” Richards tweeted.
After the mask ordinance failed 4-5, Richards said he had not expected the mandate to pass.
According to The Oklahoman, “The ordinance failed to reach the seven-vote threshold required for emergency adoption by a 4-to-5 vote.”
Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper unsuccessfully attempted to change the voting process so a simple majority vote would be sufficient.
Only seven states currently have mask mandates: Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. Oklahoma is in the majority in not passing the mask mandate.
But masking can still be helpful in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Heather Rosser, Oklahoma Christian Alumna and Public Health Nurse, said masks contribute to the public’s safety.
“From a public health point of view, wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic is always going to be considered a positive preventative measure. I recommend all my friends and family to continue wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the potential of contracting the illness.”