OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As COVID-19 cases continue to climb across the country and the state, many doctors are stressing the importance of taking precautions when the school year begins.
The CDC has recommended that all teachers, staff, students, and visitors wear masks indoors at schools, regardless of vaccination status.
Last week, the Chairwoman of the Oklahoma City School Board urged families to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear face masks to protect their children.
Oklahoma City Public Schools is set to kick off the school year on Monday, Aug. 9.
“Science tells us that the two most important mitigation strategies in the school setting are the appropriate wearing of masks and vaccinations,” Paula Lewis said. “We highly encourage those who are eligible to receive the vaccine to do so as soon as possible. Because our youngest learners can not yet be vaccinated, we are asking our families and staff to consider wearing a mask to help protect them.”
Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 658 in May, preventing school districts from requiring masks and vaccines.
“We’re not going to mandate that someone else has to send their 4-year-old to school with a mask or get vaccinated,” Stitt said last week in defense of the bill.
Lewis criticized Stitt and the state Legislature for taking the power to enforce COVID precautions away from schools.
“Unfortunately, the Governor and State Legislature have taken decision-making authority regarding these two measures out of the control of school districts and their boards,” Lewis said.
Now, Oklahoma Democrats are calling for a special session to repeal Senate Bill 658.
“What has to happen before we take COVID seriously? We have children in ICU. Our schools are about to open without the ability to protect staff and students, and as cases continue to rise, our vaccination rate is one of the worst in the nation. If the Governor is going to abdicate his responsibility, the Legislature must act. The House Democratic Caucus is calling for the Legislature to convene a special session immediately to repeal Senate Bill 658 and give school districts a chance to act,” said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, (D-Norman.)
Virgin and several members of the House Democratic Caucus released statements, calling for a special session to repeal SB 658.
“It is frustrating that leadership in this state has championed local control until now when the lives of our children are at stake. Local control is good for schools, the economy, and communities. Whether you are for or against any particular health provision, I think we all can agree that decisions are best made by the people directly impacted by them. We need to allow communities and schools to protect themselves. I join my colleagues in calling for a special session,” said Rep. Mickey Dollens, (D-OKC.)
On Monday, data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health shows that the state has had 486,232 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March of 2020.
That’s an increase of 5,597 cases since Friday, July 30.
At this point, officials believe there are 14,283 active cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oklahoma has seen 8,746 deaths as of Monday.
“Close your eyes to a tidal wave and it will still hit you in the face. An emergency should be declared by Governor Stitt, this Covid variant is more contagious, more deadly for many. Numbers are doubling weekly and patients are forced out of state as we have run out of emergency Covid beds in Oklahoma. We should move to protect each other, the worst is yet to come, as new Covid deaths mount,” said Rep. Regina Goodwin, (D-Tulsa.)