“We’re giving a false sense of security”: Senate Bill 658 author calls mask effectiveness ‘debatable,’ claims negative effects on children


OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The author of a bill that keeps school districts from mandating masks is speaking out after an email exchange with a Tulsa pharmacist attracted attention on social media.

Senator Rob Standridge says not only are masks relatively ineffective for children, but they can also have negative effects.

“The effectiveness is debatable but we’re totally discounting any harms, real or potential,” Standridge said.

The Tulsa pharmacist recently sent the senator an email imploring him to follow scientific recommendations.

When KFOR reached out, she responded saying she could not speak on camera, but she did send a copy of her initial email.

Rep. Standridge's reply to a pharmacist asking for mask mandates
Screenshot of Rep. Standridge’s email provided by the pharmacist

She told the senator that children will be harmed because of his bill. She also said he should publicly support a mask mandate.

Standridge’s opinion on masked hasn’t budged.

“[When] dust settles, we’ll find [studies on masks] agree with the last 5 decades of studies that they’re probably totally ineffective,” Standridge said.

The senator says one of his concerns with masks are how they could potentially spread bacteria and mold on the masks themselves.

“If you think a phone collects bacteria, try a moist warm mask that’s been on a child’s face for 6 hours,” Standridge said. “How much of a harm that is, I can’t tell you exactly. But it makes me concerned.”

He also says it hurts kids socially.

“There’s no question the nonverbal communication is completely taken away,” Standridge said. “I almost see that as a bigger issue for a child.”

The senator also adds he believed the standard cloth mask didn’t protect against the virus hardly at all, citing a recent Canadian study that showed a standard cloth mask only filters out 10 percent of exhaled aerosol droplets.

However, the lead researcher said in a press release, “There is no question it is beneficial to wear any face covering, both for protection in close proximity and at a distance in a room…”

We also asked local physicians about the senator’s mask concerns.

Dr. Devon Hahn with the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital says she has not seen dirty masks impact children.

“We don’t see people getting infection because they were wearing masks,” Hahn said. “The mask catches the things that you’re bringing out and if those are things you already had in your body and you’re not sick from them, the mask isn’t gonna make you more sick.”

In terms of nonverbal communication, Dr. Karen Rose with SSM Shawnee says it can be a challenge but there are ways to overcome it.

“I’m a pediatrician I see children every day,” Dr. Rose said. “It can be a challenge…but you engage them with good eye contact you speak slowly and clearly you make sure that you use exaggerated facial expressions.”

Both acknowledged that a cloth mask isn’t as effective as an N-95 mask, but that any extra layer of protection for children is worth it.

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