Officials: Mask mandates having impact on coronavirus cases in Oklahoma

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – City leaders and health experts continue to stress the importance of wearing a mask while out in public, saying recent data from across Oklahoma shows that masks are slowing the spread of COVID-19.

On July 17, the Oklahoma City Council approved a mandatory mask ordinance for indoor public places within the city limits.

The mask ordinance has been in effect for almost a month and city leaders say they are now seeing the effects.

On Thursday, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said positive COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma City have dropped by about a third.

“I think that’s exactly what we expected and hoped to see. As more and more cities roll out mask mandates, I think we’ll see a reduction in the number of cases because it is the most effective intervention we have right now to prevent transmission of this disease from one person to another,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU’s Chief COVID Officer.

Dr. Bratzler says when looking at the data, cities that have enacted a mask mandate have seen a drop in cases. On the other hand, cities that haven’t seem to have seen a jump in COVID-19 cases.

“So there actually is now a number of different data sources that show that when you look at the communities that have put mask mandates into place, they’re actually seeing reductions in the total number of cases and we’re actually seeing the number of cases that have gone up slightly in other areas of the state that haven’t put mask mandates into place. So again, this natural experiment that we have going on right now in Oklahoma seems to show that mask mandates are working and reducing. The other thing I think I’ve mentioned before, I do track very closely what’s happening in Norman on the OU campus, and we’ve seen a dramatic reduction in the number of tests that have come back positive over the past four weeks or so,” Bratzler said.

While cases are dropping in some areas of the state, coronavirus cases overall still remain high in the Sooner State.

According to recent data, Oklahoma is experiencing a similar number of new COVID-19 cases as the state of New York, even though Oklahoma has a much smaller population.

Oklahoma’s population is around 3.9 million, compared to New York’s population, which stands at around 19.4 million.

“So Oklahoma had 4,700 cases last week. New York, the entire state of New York, had 4,200 cases in the past week. Right now, the past seven days in Oklahoma, we saw 45 deaths in the state and New York had 36 deaths. So they really have controlled the pandemic in New York state compared to what we’re doing. And I think, again, we’re seeing really good trends in Oklahoma but we need everybody to keep their guard up. We can’t let the foot off the gas. We have to keep wearing masks, do social distancing, avoiding crowds, and doing the best we can to control this pandemic right now,” Bratzler said.

As students head back to class across the state, many people are concerned about possible outbreaks at schools.

“I think it’s something that all of us are working on right now. Luckily, we know kids don’t get nearly as sick and particularly the younger kids don’t get infected quite as often. But again, the same strategies are going to be really important for our public school systems to keep the kids safe, and that includes wearing masks. Don’t let your kids get on the bus without wearing a mask. Strongly encouraging all the school districts to have mask policies for their students in the classroom because that will protect, not only, keep the kids from spreading it to each other, but it will also protect the faculty, the staff that work in the schools, so that’s going to be really, really important. And then I think I’ve seen a lot of school reopening plans that have all been very good about disinfection and trying to reduce the crowd sizes. For instance, closing cafeterias, keeping the students in the classroom, separating them as much as they possibly can. But let there be no doubt, young kids can get this infection and we will see, likely, some outbreaks across the state,” Dr. Bratzler said.

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