In the past week both Sen. Jim Inhofe and Gov. Kevin Stitt have exercised disregard of public health advice to contain locally the most significant pandemic in the U.S. since the influenza outbreak of 1918.

They ignored social distancing guidelines by offering to shake hands with reporters (Inhofe) and by being out in crowded spaces such as a food hall (Stitt).

Many Oklahomans are already engaged in social distancing because either they or a loved one are immune-compromised or have a chronic condition making them susceptible to contracting the severe form of COVID-19 that requires intensive care, including possible ventilation for recovery.

They are also dependent on social distancing to slow transmission of coronavirus so that hospitals can meet the demand if many people are ill at once.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oklahoma has an above-average prevalence of asthma and one of the highest mortality rates attributed to asthma.

Oklahomans were vulnerable to respiratory distress and death before coronavirus; this is only going to make it worse.

Instead of demonstrating unselfish leadership by modeling to Oklahomans the restraint necessary to prevent transmission of coronavirus for the good of all, Inhofe and Stitt disregarded all public advice to flout self-serving individual invincibility.

I doubt either one will demonstrate appropriate shame or apologize to those of us whose necessary, life-protecting caution will now further be seen as hypochondriac overreaction or paranoia.

Oklahoma deserves sacrificial leadership that recognizes the public good. This is not it.

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