Ray Carter | January 13, 2021

GOP lawmakers back Stitt on quarantines

Ray Carter

Fifty House Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Charles McCall, have announced their support for resumed in-person instruction in all Oklahoma schools and Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan to ease quarantine restrictions at schools, calling it the “right, safe thing to do for our children, their families, and our state educators.”

“The majority of Oklahoma parents and guardians have chosen in-person learning as the best option for their child, and many have told us they want their children back in school,” the group announced in a joint statement. “A recent medical study showed that 99.96% of 90,000 students and staff studied did not catch COVID-19 at school, and there were zero cases of child-to-adult within-school transmission. This shows us that we can safely return students and educators to in-person learning with proper safety protocols in place with extremely minimal risk. Governor Stitt’s decision is the right, safe thing to do for our children, their families, and our state educators.”

The accompanying release noted Stitt has called for easing COVID-19 quarantine measures at state schools. Currently, all students and staff potentially exposed to COVID-19 while in school must be quarantined for about two weeks.

Stitt has urged schools instead to quarantine only those who test positive or exhibit symptoms, so long as all students in a school wear masks and the potential exposure occurred in school and not at sporting events or other extracurricular activities.

The governor and Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters noted that mass quarantines result in dozens or even hundreds of students and staff being removed from in-person schooling, yet few of those individuals ever contract the virus.

Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Lance Frye also endorsed Stitt’s plan, saying, “We see very little spread of COVID-19 in school settings.”

Those who have publicly opposed Stitt’s plan include the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), which is the state’s largest teachers’ union, legislative Democrats, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister.

The OEA has steadfastly opposed in-person instruction, even after Stitt announced that teachers would be among the first to receive the vaccination for COVID-19.

While some critics of school reopening have argued schools are unable to pay for all necessary health measures, lawmakers were recently informed that halfway through the current school year Oklahoma districts have spent only $46 million out of $144 million in available federal bailout money provided last spring to cover such costs.

The lawmakers signing the statement of support included House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka; House Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa; House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City; House Appropriations and Budget Chair Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston; House Appropriation and Budget Subcommittee on Education Chair Mark McBride, R-Moore; and several former teachers now serving in the Legislature, including House Common Education Committee Chair Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon.

The full list of House lawmakers issuing the statement included the following individuals:

• State Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon

• State Rep. Steve Bashore, R-Miami

• State Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa

• State Rep. Brad Boles, R-Marlow

• State Rep. Ty Burns, R-Pawnee

• State Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid

• State Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle

• State Rep. Rusty Cornwell, R-Vinita

• State Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont

• State Rep. Bob Ed Culver, R-Tahlequah

• State Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa

• State Rep. Mike Dobrinski, R-Okeene

• State Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City

• State Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee

• State Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola

• State Rep. David Hardin, R-Stilwell

• State Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin

• State Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow

• State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane

• State Rep. Gerrid Kendrix, R-Altus

• State Rep. Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee

• State Rep. Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa

• State Rep. Mark Lepak, R-Claremore

• State Rep. Dick Lowe, R-Amber

• State Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond

• State Rep. Stan May, R-Broken Arrow

• State Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore

• Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka

• State Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow

• State Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond

• State Rep. Garry Mize, R-Guthrie

• State Rep. Carl Newton, R-Cherokee

• Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa

• State Rep. Kenton Patzkowsky, R-Balko

• State Rep. John Pfeiffer, R-Orlando

• State Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula

• State Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant

• State Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay

• State Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell

• State Rep. Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks

• State Rep. David Smith, R-Arpelar

• State Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon

• State Rep. Danny Sterling, R-Tecumseh

• State Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore

• State Rep. Mark Vancuren, R-Owasso

• State Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston

• State Rep. Josh West, R-Grove

• State Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore

• State Rep. Rick West, R-Heavener

• State Rep. Tammy West, R-Oklahoma City

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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