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Tulsa council eschews mask mandate, school adopts mandate

August 26, 2021 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Tulsa school district on Thursday announced a mask mandate for students and teachers, a day after the Tulsa City Council adopted a resolution encouraging, instead of mandating, mask-wearing.

Tulsa school staff must wear masks indoors beginning Monday and students must be masked starting Sept. 7.

School staff and students with documented medical exemptions are exempt and students may be exempted “based on the educational or the social and emotional needs of the student,” according to the district’s website.

“During the next week, we will be sharing details with our school communities regarding the specific expectations and possible exemptions regarding mask wearing,” according to the statement.

The district joins more than two dozen others in the state in adopting mask mandates, some with opt-out provisions, according to a lawsuit challenging a state law that bans school mask mandates.

The City Council voted 9-0 Wednesday night for the mask recommendation after a proposed mask mandate was tabled during a meeting at City Hall drew a crowd that included some unmasked people who were escorted out because of a mask requirement inside city buildings.

“I am disappointed that we are going with a resolution instead of a mandate largely because of the outcry from doctors ... who are asking us to do more,” said Councilor Kara Joy McKee, a mask mandate sponsor.

The proposal to reissue a mask mandate came as coronavirus cases rose from 160 per week in early June to 2,749 for the week ending Aug. 17. The state health department reported a three-day average of 480 virus-related hospitalizations in Tulsa on Thursday, up from a three-day average of 49 in late June.

Mask mandate opponents included Dr. Randall Stickney, who called masks “a useless banner for a political agenda.”

The city said in a news release that businesses may choose to implement mask mandates that the city will enforce through trespassing and disturbing the peace laws.

Statewide, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported an increase of 4,152 coronavirus cases and 1,607 virus-related hospitalizations, numbers not scene since late January, according to University of Oklahoma Health Dr. Dale Bratzler.

“Historically when we saw cases, new cases, of COVID-19 we expected ... somewhere around 10% of those people to end up in the hospital,” Bratzler said, noting that the one day high for virus hospitalizations in the state was 1,994 in early January.

The health department reported a seven-day average of 2,507 new cases, nearly double the seven-day average of 1,268 in late July.

Also Thursday, Oklahoma Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye and Muscogee Nation Secretary of Health Shawn Terry announced a cooperative agreement for the nation to offer monoclonal antibody treatments.

The treatments are one of a handful of therapies that can blunt the worst effects of COVID-19.