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Oklahoma governor bars state agencies from mandating masks, vaccines

Oklahoma governor bars state agencies from mandating masks, vaccines
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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) on Friday issued an executive order banning state agencies from implementing mask mandates or vaccine requirements for people entering their buildings.

Under the order, which officially goes into effect on Tuesday, “all buildings and office space, owned or leased by the State of Oklahoma and open to the public shall rescind any mandate for the wearing of masks in order to receive government services.” 

The action also stated that “all state agencies are hereby prohibited from requiring a vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of admittance to any public building.” 

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However, the governor clarified that the order “shall not apply to employees and buildings of state agencies primarily involved in medical patient-facing activities including research participant areas and facilities where patient care is the primary function.” 

The order also specified that it shouldn’t be “construed to restrict an individual’s right to wear a mask in a state or public building.” 

In a statement included with the order, Stitt, who in March lifted all remaining coronavirus restrictions in the state, said, “For over a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of all four million Oklahomans.” 

“Due to the fortitude of our people and the diligence of our medical professionals, our state is now in a position where every Oklahoman who wants a vaccine has had the ability to undergo a complete cycle," he said. 

“It is time to return to normal,” he added, arguing that in Oklahoma, “the standard for normal is freedom.” 

“Every Oklahoman must have access to all government services whether or not they choose to be vaccinated or wear a mask,” the GOP governor said. 

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Stitt on Friday also signed into law a state bill that prohibits state schools and colleges from adopting mandatory mask mandates or vaccination requirements. 

The governor shared an image from his bill signing event on Twitter, writing, “Taking the COVID-19 vaccine is a personal choice.”

“I’ve signed SB 658, to ensure that students can go to school without that choice being made for them,” he said. “This bill also prevents schools from requiring vaccine passports or masks for unvaccinated students.” 

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that fully vaccinated individuals no longer have to wear masks in most settings, some businesses have continued to require that customers wear face coverings, and several universities across the country have announced requirements that any students wishing to return in-person to campus in the fall must be fully vaccinated. 

According to CDC data, roughly 41 percent of Oklahoma’s population has received at lease one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, with nearly 34 percent fully vaccinated.