OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As health officials continue to stress the importance of COVID-19 precautions, an Oklahoma representative has filed a bill that would enact a statewide mask mandate.
“I want to make sure not one Oklahoman has to go through what I went through, as far as struggling against this virus,” Rep. Jason Lowe (D – District 97) of Oklahoma City told KFOR on Tuesday.
On Monday, Lowe announced he filed House Bill 2192, also known as the ‘COVID-19 Save Lives Response Act.’
If passed, it would mandate masks statewide until COVID-19 related hospitalizations drop below 300 for 30 consecutive days.
Oklahomans found not in compliance would face a $1,000 fine.
“This is personal for me. In March last year, I was infected with this virus. I was hospitalized for a day,” Lowe said. “This is real. People every single day are dying of this virus.”
The bill would also prohibit nonessential gatherings of 10 or more people, with an exemption for churches and essential businesses.
“Our numbers are skyrocketing. Hospitalizations are skyrocketing. We need to take action,” he said.
This type of legislation is something some lawmakers, like State Senator Nathan Dahm, (R-Tulsa), strongly oppose.
Dahm has pre-filed a bill that would ban mask mandates.
“I do understand that there is a pandemic going on and that people need to take responsible actions for that. Government uses emergencies to infringe upon people’s rights. The Constitution doesn’t cease to exist in the middle of a pandemic,” said Dahm.
Oklahomans we spoke with, like Lee Thompon, are hopeful Lowe’s bill passes.
“That’s the one way to get this stopped,” she said.
Thompson told KFOR she’s frustrated because on Monday, she was allegedly thrown out of a Southwest Oklahoma City Dollar General after asking another customer to put on a mask.
“All of a sudden the cashier comes around and she goes, ‘You need to stop harassing my customers,’” Thompson said. “I’m in that next age group, you know, almost 60 but not quite 60. So I want this coronavirus shot.”
Lowe agrees. He’s hoping his bill makes it to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk and gets a signature.
“If the governor refuses to take action, I’m imploring the legislature to go ahead and take action, get this on his desk. If he vetoes it, hopefully we have the numbers to override his veto,” he said.