Oklahoma doctor does not expect session on virus masking
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The president of the Oklahoma Medical Association said Tuesday that talks with Gov. Kevin Stitt show no sign that a special legislative session is in the offing to overturn a law banning schools from requiring masks.
“We have been talking and chatting with the governor and also discussing with some of the legislators,” but with no indication of a desire to overturn the law, said Dr. Mary Clarke.
“Who knows what will happen next week? But right now, we don’t think there’ll be any change to that law,” which Stitt signed in March, Clarke said.
Legislative Democrats have also called for a special election or an emergency declaration to allow schools to require masks. The calls come as coronavirus cases in Oklahoma increase amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.
Stitt has not commented specifically on calls for a special session but said in a statement Tuesday that there is no need to declare a state of emergency based on Oklahoma’s current COVID-19 data.
“We have an effective vaccine that is free and widely available to all eligible Oklahomans and we are well-prepared to manage COVID without a state of emergency,” Stitt said.
Oklahoma State Department of Health officials have indicated they are comfortable in their ability to implement their surge plan without an emergency declaration, even though only about 16% of the state’s 804 staffed ICU beds are currently unoccupied.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Tuesday reported 946 new virus cases and a seven-day average of 1,657 new cases daily, compared to a seven-day average of 213 on July 1.
The Cherokee Nation announced Tuesday that it was temporarily suspending elective surgeries at its health facilities because of the surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations. It said about 90% of the tribe’s new cases are in unvaccinated patients.
“Not only is COVID-19 putting added pressures and risks on our hospital, health centers and our amazing health care team tasked with treating COVID patients, but the resurgence once again threatens the overall wellbeing of the Cherokee Nation and the most vulnerable among us, including our Cherokee elders,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement.