Telling residents that there is “no burden too heavy for God to lift or for this state to bear,” Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt declared Dec. 3 a day of fasting and prayer as confirmed coronavirus cases increase in that state.
Data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health show that as of Thursday morning, some 202,341 positive cases of the virus have been diagnosed in the state since the pandemic was declared in March.
Health officials also confirmed a 2,859 increase in the number of positive cases over the most recent 24-hour period as well as 54 deaths. The state had recorded 1,812 coronavirus-related deaths since March among its population of 4 million.
“Oklahomans have always turned to prayer to guide us through trials and seasons of uncertainty, and I am asking Oklahomans of all faiths and religious backgrounds to join together with me on Thursday,” Stitt said in a statement Monday about his call for fasting and prayer. “I believe we must continue to ask God to heal those who are sick, comfort those who are hurting, and provide renewed strength and wisdom to all who are managing the effects of COVID-19.”
Stitt urged churches and other houses of worship to continue taking precautions to care for vulnerable members of their congregations and work to slow the spread of the coronavirus while referencing 2 Chronicles 7:14.
“I believe our churches and faith communities have an incredible opportunity during this season to provide hope to Oklahomans who are struggling as we close a year that has been mentally, emotionally and physically draining. It’s important that we continue to find safe ways to gather as we all do our part to protect our families, neighbors and communities from this virus,” he said before reminding believers that there is nothing too hard for God.
“When we unite in prayer, we are reminded that there is no burden too heavy for God to lift or for this state to bear with His help. 2 Chronicles 7:14 proclaims that, ‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” Stitt proclaimed.
The governor’s call for a day of prayer and fasting has been met with some criticism, partly because he has resisted calls to institute a statewide mask mandate.
On Nov. 16, however, he did announce that all employees of executive agencies should wear masks in state office buildings. The requirement for 33,000 state employees came as part of a package of statewide restrictions on bar and restaurant hours and social distancing requirements for indoor dining, Tulsa World reported.
Stitt believes that advocates of a mask mandate are feeding into fear-mongering.
“Oklahoma has been fully reopened for six months,” Stitt said on Nov. 19. “We’re seeing our cases go up and not as fast as some of these shutdown states. It’s a virus. If I could wave my magic wand to make it totally disappear in Oklahoma, I would do it. But again, I don’t think it’s about magic words.”
The four states with the highest COVID-19 deaths include New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Oklahoma is ranked at No. 40 among the 50 states with a death toll of 44 per 100,000 population.