Oklahoma schools may offer in-school quarantine of students

Mike Seals - November 25, 2020 11:01 pm

By Ken Miller

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced Wednesday that public schools will be allowed to offer in-school quarantines for students exposed to the virus.

Schools in Mustang became the first in the state to adopt the policy, the department said.

“In the past, if a student had tested positive for COVID-19, any students who interacted with the case — up to the entire class — would have been required to move to distance learning for 14 days,” said Dr. Jared Taylor, Interim State Epidemiologist. “An in-school quarantine option is the best way to keep our kids in school and prevent them from falling behind.”

Mustang Superintendent Charles Bradley said in a statement said the policy allows the suburban Oklahoma City district to avoid moving entirely to online teaching.

“Our goal, as a school district, is to have in-person instruction for five days each week for all of our students, but we will only do that if it is safe,” Bradley said. “This in-school quarantine pilot program will help move us in that direction.”

Students who are quarantined will be allowed to go to school to take part in virtual classes, but kept out of individual classrooms in buildings such as gyms or an auditorium where they would be socially distanced and must wear masks.

The policy will be in effect from Nov. 30 through Dec. 23.

In Oklahoma City, three bars and four bar employees are suing the city over Mayor David Holt’s proclamation that in-person service at bars must end at 11 p.m.

The lawsuit alleges Holt overstepped his legal authority and improperly cited the city’s Riot Control and Prevention Act when he declared a public disaster and issued the proclamation this month.

“The plain and unambiguous language of the RCPA makes clear that its intent is to control and prevent riots—not to contain the spread of pandemics,” according to the lawsuit.

City spokesperson Kristy Yager declined to comment on the pending litigation, which city attorneys moved from state to federal court because it makes claims under the U.S. Constitution.

Attorney Frank Urbanic, representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Oklahoma City, said he will file a new lawsuit that does not include federal claims.

Last week, Gov. Kevin Stitt declared a statewide emergency due to COVID-19 and issued restrictions on bars and restaurants that prohibit on-premises consumption of all food and beverages after 11 p.m.

Urbanic told The Associated Press on Wednesday that stopping the Oklahoma City declaration would not end the governor’s requirement that bars and restaurants stop in-person service at 11 p.m. He said the difference is the governor’s declaration carries no penalty while the city’s ordinance includes a possible $750 fine and up to six months in jail for those who violate it.

“Oklahoma City needs to be stopped first,” Urbanic said. “That would take the penalty out of it.”

In Tulsa, the City Council approved measures Tuesday night that are intended to slow the spread of the virus, including giving the Tulsa Health Department authority to enforce the city’s ordinances in public places such as restaurants and bars.

“Just as THD staff inspect local food establishments to ensure they are operating safely to prevent foodborne illnesses, our staff will now also help local businesses keep their employees and customers safe,” Health Director Bruce Dart said.

The measures also require event organizers to submit safety plans to the health department 14 days prior to an event of 150 or more people, down from 500, and businesses must require customers and employees to follow the city’s mask mandate.

There is no penalty for failing to wear a mask, but the ordinance says people who refuse to do so could face trespassing, disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace charges.

The state health department reported a record one-day high of 1,604 people hospitalized with confirmed or probable cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday. The were 3,732 newly reported cases and 16 additional deaths for totals of 184,342 cases and 1,680 deaths since the pandemic began.


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