The Oklahoman: Rep. Frank Lucas: As COVID-19 winter approaches, Oklahoma must act

Oklahoma set a record for COVID-19 hospitalizations last week, and the United States reached a grim milestone of more than 250,000 coronavirus deaths. After earlier surges in the spring and summer, the country is now in the midst of the feared fall coronavirus surge and we’re peering into the darkness that winter will bring. With more than 1,500 Oklahomans now hospitalized and new positive cases averaging more than 2,600 per day, it’s time for Oklahoma to act.

On Nov. 17 and 18, Oklahoma reported COVID-19 daily records for hospitalizations, ICU patients and deaths. On average, 20% of Oklahoma’s hospital beds are filled with those battling COVID-19; ICU bed availability has dropped to between 5% and 7%. Increases in the number of active cases come as many hospitals and their staff, especially those in rural Oklahoma, are being pushed to their limits — physically and emotionally. While it’s true that more testing reveals more cases, the number of hospitalizations gives Oklahomans an objective measure of rampant community spread of the virus.

As deaths rise this winter, Oklahoma’s leaders will need to implement steps to slow the spread of COVID. Leaders — from Congress to mayors — show no support for total lockdowns or stay-at-home orders. But science shows that there are other temporary measures available to keep our communities safe, save lives and ensure Oklahoma flattens the curve.

While inconvenient, masks help mitigate spread. Masks allow Oklahoma to preserve health care capacity, help keep schools open and ensure businesses continue to create prosperity for our communities. Simply put, everyone wearing a mask in public will reduce spread of the coronavirus and save lives. As of Nov. 18, 36 states had implemented mask mandates. From Oklahoma’s neighbors like Kansas and Texas to states like North Carolina and Alabama, the enforcement of mask mandates varies from state to state, and even community to community based on individual need. As Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “States should be able to choose how to enforce a mandate, but the goal should be to make masks a social and cultural norm, not a political statement.”

Another measure of intervention Oklahoma must consider is limiting crowded settings. According to researchers at Stanford University, most COVID-19 transmissions occur at full-service restaurants, grocery stores, gyms, cafes and other “superspreader sites.” Capping indoor capacity between 20% and 50% could decrease new infections by as much as 80% — a public health intervention that will be important to focus on as activities move indoors for the winter months. No business leader or public official recommends shutting down our economy, but we do believe in following the science and proper recommended interventions of doctors and epidemiologists.

During the summer, we were warned by public health officials about the dangers winter would bring. With infections and hospitalizations rising, and a vaccine not likely being widely available until next year, Oklahoma must act quickly with the resources we have available now. Wearing a mask and limiting crowd capacity will be a temporary inconvenience for many of us but could have lifesaving results for our neighbors. While many who become infected with the coronavirus will survive, we must have compassion for Oklahoma’s elderly and infirm. Over time, with a vaccine, COVID-19 will become a manageable risk and we will once again be able to celebrate all of life’s milestones and occasions with our families and friends.

Lucas, R-Cheyenne, represents Oklahoma’s 3rd Congressional District.



Recent Posts

Feb 21, 2024

Lucas Stands Up for Oklahoma Beef Producers

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) joined an effort to halt the Biden Administration’s rule allowing for the importation of fresh Paraguayan beef, which has historically been affected by the viral foot-and-mouth disease. The USDA’s most recent inspection of cattle in Paraguay was nearly a decade ago.  Congressman Lucas (OK-03) joined Rep. Ronny Jackson’s (TX-13) joint resolution […]

Feb 20, 2024

Lucas: USDA fails to deliver support to Oklahoma farmers.

Washington, DC – At today’s House Agriculture Committee hearing, Congressman Lucas questioned Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack over the Biden Administration’s failed Emergency Relief Program (ERP). Congressman Lucas noted that producers in Oklahoma were feeling the negative affects of the ERP 2022 program. Secretary Vilsack questioned this claim, prompting Congressman Lucas to defend his constituents. Click here or […]

Feb 6, 2024

Secretary Yellen Dodges Basel Endgame Questioning

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Lucas followed up with Secretary Yellen on whether Treasury has discussed the impact of the Basel Endgame proposal with the Federal Reserve. When asked a straightforward question on the detrimental impact of the proposal, Secretary Yellen had no answer. February 6, 2024 Lucas: “Are you concerned that the proposal will undermine the […]