OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt held a news conference Tuesday in Oklahoma City to give an update on the COVID-19 situation in the state.
It’s Stitt’s first press briefing given since Dec. 22.
Since the last update, the state has moved into Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccination plan which is getting shots to the at-risk population 65 years old or older, and school staff and teachers.
On Tuesday, Stitt insisted schools in the state that are still keeping children out of classrooms are threatening those students’ learning and teachers’ careers.
Stitt specifically named Oklahoma City Public Schools as a district that continues to “refuse to let their parents send kids to school.”
In his continued effort to get children back into classrooms, Stitt and State Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye announced a new policy for schools that enforce the use of masks, who now will not have to quarantine people who were potentially exposed to the virus unless the individual is showing symptoms.
Frye said Tuesday the state has seen “very little” spread of the virus in school settings. He says the state is working to get teachers 65 and older vaccinated as soon as this week, and they will start vaccinating other teachers as soon as vaccine supply is available.
During Tuesday’s news conference, Stitt praised Broken Arrow Public Schools as an example of a large school district that allowed students into classrooms during the pandemic.
As of Jan. 12, Broken Arrow had 106 total positive cases in students and 674 students quarantining due to close contact with someone who had tested positive. The district has 18,658 students enrolled in in-person learning and a mask requirement for grades 3-12.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was not invited to speak at Tuesday’s news conference and was not consulted on the policy changes, a spokesperson told FOX23.
Hofmeister released the following statement:
Green Country schools were surprised by the announcement as well.
Tulsa Public Schools and the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association released a statement following the news conference saying they’ll still need time to review the new policy before making changes to their plans.
Bixby Public Schools released a statement saying students and staff in quarantine should remain following the district’s current protocol until the state passes along further guidance.
A similar statement followed from Jenks Public Schools which also didn’t receive notice of the new policy before Stitt’s announcement on Tuesday:
Owasso Public Schools also followed up with a statement saying they will continue to adhere to existing quarantine protocols.
Many members of the Oklahoma Democratic Caucus also released statements in response to Gov. Stitt’s conference. Below is one from local Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa.
Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye followed up Gov. Stitt’s press conference with this statement released to the media.
The state now has seen its COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations continue to surge after the holiday season, reaching all-time highs in active cases, one-day death reports, and the number of people hospitalized due to the virus in Oklahoma.
The state’s 7-day average for new COVID-19 cases reported surpassed 4,100 on Tuesday for the first time since the pandemic began.
© 2021 Cox Media Group