“I want my kids to be safe,” Oklahoma parents, leaders voice concerns over schools’ inability to require masks as fall approaches and COVID cases rise

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – Some Oklahoma parents are concerned about their kids going back to school in a few weeks with no mask requirement.

“I’m nervous about it,” Jeffrey Bodell, a Norman parent, told News 4.

Bodell told News 4 he’s feeling uneasy about sending his two young daughters back to school in a few weeks, due to the Delta variant and rising COVID case numbers.

“This variant is a lot worse with kids than the first one was, so I’m afraid that not requiring masks in schools is going to hurt a lot of kids,” Bodell said.

On Friday, Oklahoma’s rolling average of COVID cases was 938. The last time it was that high was back on February 19th when there was 932 cases.

“As a state and as a country, I just think that the minimum to do is to require masks in school,” Bodell said.

However, a new state law prohibits school districts from requiring masks unless the governor declares a state of emergency.

Governor Kevin Stitt said on Friday during a press conference that he is not planning on doing that.

“This is about personal responsibility. This is about freedoms. Nothing in the legislation prevents parents from sending kids to school with masks or vaccinated,” Stitt said.

On Monday, a group of Oklahoma House Democrats released statements, urging the Governor Stitt to rethink his decision:

“After speaking to leadership in some of these districts, it is becoming clear that they are following guidance from the state health department, which is concerning since the policies are not consistent with CDC guidelines. Stillwater is an education town, and the lack of consistent and fact-based policy from state leadership has left our entire community exposed and unprepared for this growing COVID wave. Oklahomans, especially those making decisions to keep children safe, need better information from state leadership, and we need the Governor to declare a state of emergency.” 

State Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater

“Once again the Governor is AWOL when leadership is needed. COVID is exploding across Oklahoma. Our hospitals are again diverting emergency patients. Oklahoma leads the nation in COVID growth but the Governor is too busy posing for pictures and campaigning across the state on the taxpayer’s dime to deal with the crisis unfolding before our very eyes. Oklahomans deserve action to protect lives and the state economy.” 

State Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City

“Needs across Oklahoma are different, and one thing is clear – we need local control returned and we need it now.  Our little ones cannot get the vaccine, and they are getting sick in larger numbers with the Delta variant.   We must be able to take the steps necessary to protect the lives of those who cannot protect themselves.   School begins soon, and for most, in-person learning is best.  To prevent unnecessary shifts to virtual learning, I urge the Governor to declare a state of emergency so that our neighborhood schools, hometown hospitals, and local health departments can make the decisions quickly that are right for their towns.”

State Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa

“We are failing in our responsibility to keep our children safe, which is the most basic responsibility of government. So next year, rather than quarantine those who have been exposed, we will have to revert to virtual schooling again because our school buildings will have become hazardous environments.”

State Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa

“It is concerning. Our students health, our school employees health, their working and learning environments are so important right now,” Katherine Bishop, President of the Oklahoma Education Association, told News 4.

That’s why Bodell said he’ll be sending his kids to school with a mask every day, and telling their teachers they are required to wear them.

“I think it is not about freedoms or choices or anything like else. I think it’s about keeping people safe and my kids, I want my kids to be safe,” Bodell said.

Continued Coronavirus Coverage

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