The State legislature is racing toward adjournment sine die – or the final adjournment of a session - this Friday. Before the legislature adjourns, several measures are getting last chance votes, including a bill Tuesday concerning masks, the COVID-19 vaccine and schools.
“Now they were coming out on the other side, we need to be a little bit more pragmatic, a little more thoughtful on what we require of parents and children,” Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman said.
Standridge’s SB658 originally took aim at so called “vaccine passports” but was amended to also ban partial mask mandates only targeting those who have not been vaccinated.
“Why is this body, are we telling local entities what they should and shouldn’t be doing? Sen. JJ Dossett, D- Owasso, said. “There’s a local control argument here.”
“It’s a good point,” Standridge said. “I do believe in [local control] but I also believe in creating guard rails that keeps them where the majority of the citizens want them.”
The bill bans mask mandates for only un-vaccinated students from kindergarten to college. Last week, the University of Oklahoma rolled back campus wide mask requirements, except for unvaccinated adults and children between the ages of 2 and 11.
“Do you have a specific example of a K-12 school that is planning on doing that next school year?” Dossett asked on the Senate floor.
“The University of Oklahoma actually has a Health Science Center where they have researchers and medical professionals, and they are leading the charge in requiring only unvaccinated children to wear masks and why would common ed not follow?” Standridge responded. “If they don’t, then this is irrelevant to them.”
The bill also bans schools from requiring students take the COVID-19 vaccine or prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Standridge said the current vaccine is different than others on a list of required school immunizations.
“It is still under emergency use authorization, that’s something different and I think children were just approved this last week,” he said.
The bill passed the Senate 38-8 and is now eligible to be heard in the House.
“We don’t trust the federal government to tell us what we can and can’t do. Now we don’t trust local elected folks to tell us what we can and can’t do,” Dossett said.