Ardent fans of President Donald Trump who eschew masks and pronounce the COVID-19 pandemic a hoax should listen to the stronger language now emanating from the White House.

Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the official coronavirus task force, is urging Oklahoma to do more, as well he should. Oklahoma is among the states experiencing the biggest surges in infections. What a difference a few months must make, because now, Pence and his team can no longer ignore the obvious, and they're asking Gov. Kevin Stitt to take more drastic action.

For better or for worse, Stitt is resisting that advice. It's true he's telling bars and restaurants to close at 11 p.m., and he's strongly suggesting that people wear masks and social distance. But he's fallen short of making these things mandatory. His conflict is understandable, in some ways, given the hateful behavior of the anti-masking contingent, even in this part of the state.

If Tahlequah can be considered one of the more reasonable areas in terms of accepting protocols, Stitt's reading of the signs in other areas can't be good. The local task force members admitted Thursday that only about half of the restaurants and businesses are requiring masks be worn here, and Tahlequah does have a mandate. Stitt may believe masks don't really mitigate the spread of the virus, but it's far more likely that he just knows a good chunk of the population won't wear them. If his thinking runs anything like Trump's, he could view the inability to get people to "obey" him as a sign of weakness.

Stitt shouldn't take offense, because it's clear that even if Trump himself demanded a national mask mandate, some of his greatest admirerers would refuse to wear them. In that sense, these two gentlemen may find themselves hoisted by their own petards. Despite the clear science, it's hard to change the horse in mid-stream.

Again, it's going to be a matter of Okies grabbing the COVID bull by the horns, and taking our own personal responsibility very seriously, since no one else will do it. And we can start by avoiding big family get-togethers, in close quarters – because masks just aren't viable around the dinner table.

It's been argued that people should continue to celebrate Thanksgiving with their elders, because after all, these folks might not have long left to live, anyway, and this might be the last opportunity to spend time with them. On the other hand, if vulnerable people are exposed to COVID, that would likely be true as well – and then the person who passed along the virus would have to live with the guilt, if nothing else.

It's long past time that we began to put others before ourselves, and if that means a Thanksgiving with a much smaller group, so be it. There are many ways we can virtually spend time together, and we can even share "meal exchanges" with loved ones without getting too close. It's something to think about – and it's what nearly every health care professional is stressing. We should listen to them.

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