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Despite High Community Spread, COVID Quarantine Rules Loosen This School Year In Oklahoma

Jill Carlson

One of the biggest barriers to learning last school year in Oklahoma was time missed in the classroom because of quarantine, after students were exposed to the coronavirus. Those quarantine rules are being implemented a little differently this year.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is recommending students and school staff quarantine if they’re exposed to the coronavirus.

That means districts across the state are making quarantines optional. And some students are heading back to school after being exposed to the virus while they’re supposed to be monitoring for symptoms.

But, in a call to Oklahoma superintendents last week, State Epidemiologist Joli Stone said students and school staff exposed to the virus should stay home.

"We still believe that quarantine is one of our best routes to prevent spread," said Stone.

And statewide, many students and teachers are doing just that. Already, a StateImpact database of school closures has found that more than a dozen districts have pivoted to distance learning because of potential exposure numbers.

But the potential for spread because asymptomatic students might come to school with the virus is unclear.

In Oklahoma County, it’s a little bit different. The first mandatory quarantine rule went into effect there last week after a letter from Oklahoma City-County Health Department said mandatory quarantines are allowed. Edmond Public Schools immediately adopted rules requiring unvaccinated students stay home after exposure to the coronavirus.

Oklahoma is experiencing a high rate of community transmission in the latest wave of COVID cases. As of Aug. 23, Oklahoma is averaging about 2,100 new infections per day and about 1,500 people in Oklahoma are hospitalized with the virus.

There are more than 50 pediatric hospitalizations in the state.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online

Robby Korth grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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