By Ray Pearcey-Senior Contributor

Oklahoma Eagle – Editorial Essay 



As it happens, some of his recent, highly visible actions including spearheading a now infamously “unprotected” Tulsa Trump rally, too frequent visits to crowded restaurants, and the kinetic coming and goings of a an unmasked politico in July 2020, surely sparked his infection. Add a loopy concept of “personal freedom” in the midst of an historic pandemic- all are wrongheaded, spectacular examples of acting in a confusing manner.  They also the polar opposite of enlightened public leadership; all in a time when it’s desperately needed in Oklahoma. The governor needs to focus on the many in this time of grand crisis– recent Oklahoma Covid infection cases of over 1000 in a single reporting period and collateral in-state upticks in hospitalizations, ICU bed usage and deaths now demand it [1].

We hope the governor recovers soon and with no lasting harm- we suspect he will; unlike many Oklahomans, he will almost certainly secure world class care and close monitoring- he and his family deserve same. In a place of our fevered imagining- a realm that’s the best Oklahoma- everyone would routinely secure this kind of care as well.

Governor Stitt has loudly proclaimed, to anyone who would listen, that responding to the Covid catastrophe is a matter of personal responsibility. He has said that all the things we know about dealing with the virus – wearing a mask, cleaning our hands frequently, staying a safe distance from anybody other than your family and very close associates- are matters of individual election and singular acts of “freedom”  This is a problem – he doesn’t seem- so far, to have summoned any of his vaunted “personal responsibility” to do most of these things.

More broadly, we argue that this is complete nonsense anyway – responding to Covid is not, in the main, about personal responsibility- it can’t be. Rolling back the threat is about, the scientific community insists, relying heavily on all-hands strategies, stout public leadership, collective discipline and extraordinary “public health” measures- that last item is a biomedical discipline that should now be our polestar. Viral outbreaks like Covid-19 are vicious public health events- the novel virus is the biggest vector in this century and in the last one- save for the misnamed Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918. Public health is quintessentially a matter of tight use of lean public resources, public mobilization, and elevated communications from elected leaders to counteract every day threats and- when needed- lethal biological monstrosities.

We call on Governor Stitt to reconsider his Wild West outlook, privilege the still emerging science and the needs of the community in a time of crisis; we hope he will now actively employ the best on the ground advise from state, national and international sources.

Our now endangered governor should demand that all of us to do the things that will keep us safe; start with mandating an all-state mask wearing rule- he can say he’s emulating the Tulsa City Council and as, an astute former business guy, following the grand examples of Walmart, Target, CVS, Home Depot and a rapidly enlarging passel of other big time retail operators. He could call for a waylay on school re-openings in Tulsa, OKC and elsewhere until augmented funding for school virus adaption, retooled bus transport, vastly expanded remote learning infrastructure and other tangible plans are in place to insure student, teacher and staff safety and a measure of parental choice in a time of peerless uncertainty. And toxic as it may be to a Laissez-faire proponent, he and his public health crew should seriously examine imposing big city lockdowns (in Tulsa, OKC, Lawton and a hand full of other spots) that will help to forestall the miasmic outbreaks that are devastating places like Phoenix, Houston and a giant arc of urban of Florida.

Beyond these steps, key observers believe he should mobilize the not trivial health and biomedical resources of the state, our university and academic medicine communities and county health departments- taking a lead from Tulsa’s heroic health chief Dr. Bruce Dart. And he should push joint viral surveillance and antivirus testing, contact tracing and contingent hospital ramp-ups with big city mayors in Tulsa and OKC and in our small town and rural realms.

And it would help to know how the Governor plans to ensure that distribution of early stage Covid treatment regimes- like remdesivir and dexamethasone- get to the most needy patients, hospitals and docs across the state. They need to get to patients and their providers without predatory costs or grisly political interference.

Obviously, it would be great to also know- in advance- that the same dynamics, ethics and first rate planning will be in play if and when Covid vaccines become available. We don’t need a repeat of the dastardly Kushner/White House “Airbridge” initiative in which masks and hospital worker protective gear was flown into the U.S. from a wild array of foreign operations at great taxpayer costs- and resold on the open market with outrageous mark-ups. [2]

Finally, our governor should shamelessly exploit his supposedly great connection to the person who occupies the White House- to help Oklahoma get through this nightmare.

And if he can’t bring himself to embrace this Covid leadership mantel- or something close to it- he should resign.