3 State Senate bills spark clash over individual rights vs. efforts to fight COVID-19

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – One State Senator is raising eyebrows with three bills he says will protect individual right during the pandemics while opponents say the bills will get in the way of fighting COVID-19.

“This is about protecting individual rights,” said Senator Nathan Dahm of Broken Arrow.

The Oklahoma Legislature is set to reconvene February 1st.

Banning mask mandates, banning vaccine mandates, and restricting contact tracing are three bills that Senator Dahm will take to the Senate this session.

Dahm says individual rights are being infringed on as the state fights COVID-19.

Oklahoma doesn’t have a statewide mask mandate, but more than 30 cities and towns in the Sooner State have instituted their own rules.

A bill pre-filed by Damn would make them illegal.

“I do understand that there is a pandemic going on and that people need to take responsible actions for that. Government uses emergencies to infringe upon people’s rights. The Constitution doesn’t cease to exist in the middle of a pandemic,” said Dahm.

But some city leaders strongly disagree.

“We have to draw the line at public safety. If we are going to shroud protecting rights by the Constitution then I’ll invoke the social contract in the Declaration of Independence where we give up some of our individual rights for the greater good,” said Norman Mayor Breea Clark.

Clark helped push through one of the first mask mandates in the state with her city of Norman.

“Taking away those previsions will cost lives of Oklahomans and I think any elected official that is prepared to make that kind of law needs to rethink whether or not they need to be in public service,” said Clark.

Dahm has another bill that he says would prevent the government from forcing Oklahomans to get the COVID-19 vaccine, something that is currently voluntary in Oklahoma.

Another bill would make contract tracing voluntary.

“We have seen some state look at tracking people based on cell phone data or other data based on their movements without getting a warrant,” said Dahm.

Currently, contract tracing is voluntary in Oklahoma and health experts say it’s not a huge intrusion.

“For COVID, it’s really just, ‘where were you.’ I don’t think we are asking that personal of a question,” said Dr. David Chansolme, Head of Infectious Disease for Integris Health OKC.

“It’s an effort to take us back hundreds of years on how we approach medical emergencies, which is embarrassing for our state and it’s certainly not top ten,” said Clark.

Starting February 1st, Dahm’s bills will have to be approved by the Health and Human Services Committee before they would be up for debate on the Senate floor.

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