26.01.2022

Oklahoma latest state to drop all Covid-19 restrictions

Oklahoma has become the latest state to announce it will be lifting all coronavirus restrictions on events and removing its statewide mask mandate.

Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, announced on Thursday that he would be signing an executive order the following day that would remove “statewide restrictions on events and I’ll remove the requirement to wear masks in state buildings.”

His decision to remove the restrictions was due to his belief that the state was on track “to get our summer back” based on where cases and hospitalisation rates stood as more and more residents received a Covid-19 vaccine.

The state was averaging about 643 cases per day, according to its seven-day rolling average, which was a 1.1 per cent increase from the following week, according to the Covid Tracking Project. More than 4,500 people from Oklahoma have died from the novel virus.

In terms of vaccinations, Oklahoma was doing better than other states in vaccinating its residents. About 21.2 per cent of state residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, which was higher than the national average of 18.8 per cent.

Mr Stitt’s announcement on Thursday joined the governors of Arizona, Connecticut, Maryland, Mississippi, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming – who have all announced similar plans to lift restrictions as vaccinations increase and case and hospitalisation numbers decrease.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced on Tuesday that restaurants, retailers, and other businesses will be allowed to reopen without capacity restrictions beginning Friday.

In Texas, the statewide mask mandate ended on Wednesday, despite backlash from health and city officials that the decision could cause another surge in the novel virus.

Other states were also rolling back coronavirus measures in different ways besides lifting capacity restrictions and mask mandates.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that domestic travellers coming into his state from US territories would no longer be required to enter into a mandatory quarantine starting on 1 April. The state’s Department of Health would still recommend travellers to quarantine, but a mandatory quarantine would only be required for international travel.

Mr Cuomo announced alongside New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy in a joint statement on Wednesday that they would not be opening their states as swiftly as other governors. Instead, coronavirus restrictions would continue to be rolled back gradually with restaurants now being able to run at 50 per cent capacity in New York City and New Jersey starting on 19 March.

Top health officials in the Biden administration have implored state officials to halt loosening coronavirus restrictions at a time when new Covid-19 variants continue to spread through the US.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed it was witnessing a stall in the decline of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, causing concern another surge could be imminent.

“There is so much that’s critical riding on the next two months,” CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky told the National League of Cities on Wednesday. “How quickly we will vaccinate versus whether we will have another surge really relies on what happens in March and April.”

But coronavirus fatigue has set in one year into the pandemic, and increased vaccinations has encouraged state officials to get life back to normal.

About 9.9 per cent of the American public was fully vaccinated with a Covid-19 vaccine, according to CDC data.

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