The American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization of 67,000 pediatricians, recommended this week that all students over the age of two wear masks in school, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
The advice comes as the more transmissible delta variant of COVID is on the rise.
In Oklahoma, schools that want to follow AAP’s advice with a mandate can’t right now because of a law passed in May that says individual schools aren’t allowed to require masks. A school board working with a local health department can require masks, but an emergency order from the governor is also needed.
State Sen. Rob Standridge was the author of the law. He said it’s still serving its purpose, which is to give families the right to choose what they want.
“Kids can wear a mask. The parents can have them wear a mask. They can vaccinate them or not. It’s about parental control, which Oklahomans appreciate I think.”
Children under the age of 12 aren’t currently approved for the COVID vaccine, though President Biden said he expects approval by October.
Standridge said he’s heard from hundreds of constituents complaining that masks cause discomfort and he's seen news of masks hampering children's perceptions. In his opinion, since COVID is a low mortality disease in children, masks cause more problems than they solve.
“Why would we trade something where the child is at no risk and add all these other problems?”
Doctors are still debating the severity of delta variant in children (and adults), but there is agreement that it’s more transmissible and all infected people carry more copies of the virus. Post-COVID conditions are of relevance, as well.
Between the week of July 11th and July 17th, the state department of health reported 17 new hospitalizations of children 17 and under due to COVID-19.