Governor Kevin Stitt announced Tuesday that Oklahoma schools following safety protocols, including mask-wearing and social distancing, will be permitted to forgo the mandatory two-week quarantine period for potential COVID-19 exposures.
Stitt and Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye emphasized the new Oklahoma State Department of Health policy is intended to keep students and teachers safe in school while also incentivizing mask usage and other precautions for school districts across the state.
“When all the dust settles and COVID-19 is behind us I want everyone to know that kids need to be in schools I want kids in school,” said Stitt.
The new quarantine policy announced would allow a teacher or student exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 in a school setting to no longer quarantine.
“As long as the exposure happened in classroom setting everyone was wearing masks and following other safety protocols like social distancing,” said Frye.
“To say that schools are a safe place is not accurate and to say just because you are wearing a mask at a school you are safe is dangerous,” said Alicia Priest, the President of the Oklahoma Education Association.
At the press conference one person who was not in attendance was State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hoffmeister.
“Who in fact was not invited to this press conference which was a huge mistake,” said Priest.
Superintendent Hoffmeister sent a statement to News 9 saying:
"The ramifications of the pandemic on education have been challenging and severe. While this option underscores the need for mask requirements in school, I cannot in good conscience support ignoring quarantine guidelines from the CDC and other infectious disease experts. There is no doubt we all want our students and teachers to be safely in the classroom, but COVID is raging in Oklahoma. In-person instruction is critical, and so is mitigating the spread of the virus. They are not mutually exclusive."
As part of the new policy, schools should continue to require quarantines for exposed students in situations where masking and distancing protocols were not followed. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must continue to isolate regardless where they contracted the virus or were wearing a mask.