Science Supports OK Gov. Kevin Stitt's COVID Call to Prayer More than Mask Mandates

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt issued a proclamation on Monday, declaring Thursday as a day of prayer and fasting for Oklahomans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Stitt did the same type of proclamation in March when the country was just weeks into the throes of the pandemic.

According to the Oklahoman,

“More than 1,700 Oklahomans have died from complications of the virus and 197,745 in the state have contracted the virus since March.”

Stitt said in part,

“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. “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.”

Gov. Stitt did not give specifics, he merely encouraged churches and other houses of worship to take precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and these precautions are clearly outlined on the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s website. In a news release, he stressed the importance of finding ways to gather safely.

In other words, Gov. Stitt is leaving it up to the people of Oklahoma to know and understand the measures and risks they need to take. Yet, according to the Oklahoman, he is being criticized by health care officials who want him to take stronger action. The White House Coronavirus Task Force has also recommended stronger action: e.g., Mask Mandates, and limited capacity in bars and restaurants.

The entire state of Oklahoma has over 3 million people. That is less than the city of Los Angeles. In the past several weeks Oklahoma has seen a spike in cases just like Los Angeles, a little over a 1,000 versus Los Angeles’ spike of over 2,000; along with that, hospitalizations have also gone up due to “complications of the virus.”

However, what their State Health Department website reflects is that while more people may be hospitalized, very few people are dying. In fact, while cases have increased deaths have leveled off.

 

So calls for prayer, a reminder to pay attention to prevention and mitigation seem appropriate, and both are based in more proven science than mask mandates and restricting people to their homes.

In fact, Rational Ground is charting the correlation between Mask mandates and the rise of COVID hospitalizations. The charts show a clear pattern between the longer the mask mandate stays in place, the more infections seem to occur.

A high quality Danish study shows a similar pattern.

The study’s conclusion:

“The recommendation to wear surgical masks to supplement other public health measures did not reduce the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among wearers by more than 50% in a community with modest infection rates, some degree of social distancing, and uncommon general mask use. The data were compatible with lesser degrees of self-protection.”

So how much faith does it take to rely on a face diaper to protect you from COVID? Asking for a friend.

While health officials scoff at Gov. Stitt, the very NIH that Dr. Anthony Fauci heads is conducting a study on the outcome of prayer on the Coronavirus.

From NPR:

“A cardiologist at the Kansas City Heart Rhythm Institute, Lakkireddy is the principal investigator in a clinical trial involving 1000 patients with COVID-19 infections severe enough that they require intensive care.

“The four-month study, launched on May 1, will investigate ‘the role of remote intercessory multi-denominational prayer on clinical outcomes in COVID-19 patients,’ according to a description provided to the National Institutes of Health. Half of the patients, randomly chosen, will receive a ‘universal’ prayer offered in five denominational forms, via Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. The other 500 patients will constitute the control group. All the patients will receive the standard of care prescribed by their medical providers. Lakkireddy has assembled a steering committee of medical professionals to oversee the study.”

” ‘We all believe in science, and we also believe in faith,’ Lakkireddy says. ‘If there is a supernatural power, which a lot of us believe, would that power of prayer and divine intervention change the outcomes in a concerted fashion? That was our question.’

So apparently our national health organization that is part of spearheading the COVID response considers it a credible enough thing to explore.

The Wall Street Journal also did an exploration on the science of prayer. Here’s what we know: it taps into the parasympathetic nervous system (calm/ease) and reduces the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response). This in turn helps your serotonin and endorphin levels increase, increasing your positivity and eliminating your negativity.

“A 2005 study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine comparing secular and spiritual forms of meditation found spiritual meditation to be more calming. In secular meditation, you focus on something such as your breath or a nonspiritual word. In spiritual meditation, you focus on a spiritual word or text. Participants were divided into groups, with some being taught how to meditate using words of self-affirmation (“I am love”) and others taught how to meditate with words that described a higher power (“God is love”). They then meditated for 20 minutes a day for four weeks.

“Researchers found that the group that practiced spiritual meditation showed greater decreases in anxiety and stress and more positive mood. They also tolerated pain almost twice as long when asked to put their hand in an ice water bath.

“Some scientists who study prayer believe that people who pray are benefiting from a feeling of emotional support.”

As someone who does pray, and believes in the scientific and spiritual benefits of prayer, it is more than a feeling of emotional support—it is releasing what is beyond your control. Gov. Stitt is simply admitting what Dr. Fauci, and certain government and health officials will not: there is an aspect of this virus that we cannot control, so it does no harm to look beyond ourselves for help while maximizing and utilizing what we do know, and what we can control.