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How Oklahoma schools are advised to deal with the coronavirus

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It’s year three of the COVID-19 pandemic, so precautions in schools look familiar.

Oklahoma state law says mask mandates aren’t allowed, so don’t expect any of those. But, State Department of Health guidance continues to call on people to stay home if they’re sick and wash their hands often.

A couple major changes come from alterations in CDC guidance that no longer suggests schools implement social distancing policies or implement contact tracing strategies, unless they’re responding to a specific outbreak.

The state recommends the following best practices for schools:

  • Promote vaccination: Staff and students who are eligible to be vaccinated can do so for FREE at their local county health department and many other locations.  Review vaccination and booster recommendations here.
  • Encourage daily symptom monitoring at home and school. Communicate  and  enforce  the  school’s sick policy. This policy should include: 1) when an ill person should be kept home, 2) when an ill person will be sent home from school, and 3) criteria for them to return to school.  OSDH has developed a symptom assessment tool to help determine when someone should be kept home or sent home from school for any communicable disease illness.
  • Develop leave policies that encourage sick and exposed staff or students to stay home and get tested, when appropriate. 
  • Five full days of isolation at home is recommended for COVID-19. The day 0 count begins on the first day of symptoms.  If no symptoms are present, the day 0 count begins on the day the positive test was collected.  After leaving isolation, it is recommended to wear a mask in public for an additional 5 days. If a mask is unable to be worn, 10 days of isolation at home is recommended. Find OSDH isolation guidance along with calculators here.
  • Encourage consistent and correct mask use when COVID-19 Community Levels are high.

Protocols around the coronavirus might vary by school, so check with your local district to review their specific requirements.

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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