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OU Pediatricians Encourage Masks, Vaccinations Ahead Of Back-To-School

Oklahoma Children's Hospital OU Health

Pediatricians at OU Health are backing recommendations for universal masking in the classroom and kids 12 and up being vaccinated against COVID-19, ahead of a back-to-school season taking place against the backdrop of a surge in infections in Oklahoma.

"Because the vaccines are only approved to 12-years-old and above, [the American Academy of Pediatrics] recommend universal masking in school to keep the younger kids safe, and then also their family safe as well, because you never know if they're living with someone who's immunocompromised or someone that's high-risk of getting really sick from COVID," said Dr. Ashley McAllister during a Friday panel discussion.

"And I'll just add, I think, along with that, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC and several other organizations do certainly recommend that those eligible for the vaccination do, if they haven't already, really we all urge considering going and getting that," said Dr. Ami Bax, "because that's going to be just really this effective way that we can take action to protect not only ourselves but the children and other individuals who cannot be vaccinated at this time."

Under a bill passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt in May, school districts in Oklahoma are legally prohibited from requiring students to wear masks without, at the minimum, an emergency declaration from the governor. Stitt has said he has no plans to declare an emergency and that he opposes requiring children to wear masks in schools.

An Owasso pediatrics practice last month drew attention to a scarcity of pediatric hospital beds in the state, with children needing to be sent to out-of-state hospitals at times in July. 

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 21 children hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide in their Monday morning update.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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