Ah, yes: A mask for thee, but not for me. As the 2021 Oklahoma legislative session starts, there are some new pandemic-related guidelines in place at the State Capitol building for lawmakers… and seemingly a different set for staff, the press and the public.
The usual COVID-19 rules we’ve all come to know are here: attempts at avoiding large groups, efforts at social distancing and lots of sanitizing. Those are all reasonable things for everyone to adhere to. However, notably divergent in wording — and presumably, enforcement — are the rules pertaining to (you guessed it) masks.
Face coverings are required for state employees and visitors in state buildings per Gov. Kevin Stitt’s executive order. But the State Capitol is mostly under the purview of the Legislature, which announced its own “pandemic precaution protocols” on Friday. The House has rules and the Senate also has rules.
Notably, both chambers mandate masks for state employees, the press and the public. But their guidelines say lawmakers are only “encouraged” to wear face coverings, which sets up a double standard in the building that likely will not be well received by a public that already often dislikes politicians.
So, here we are again spinning our wheels with this virus at a time when diligence is needed more than ever. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel here with vaccines being distributed, and I would hope most legislators feel the same and would mask up when not socially distanced. But I’m not confident in that.
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