OKLAHOMA (KFO) – Metro hospitals are on the cusp of flattening out as staff shortages continue and patients continue to come in, but healthcare systems and first responders are not alone in their struggle. The latest wave also affects schools and workplaces across Oklahoma, as state lawmakers continue to debate weeks ahead of the 2022 legislative session about how to protect Oklahoma’s from COVID-19. Republicans are pushing back on federal vaccine mandates and want to turn those views into state law.
“Trying to debate with the federal government about who is in charge is not productive,” said D-OKC Senator Julia Kirt.
“It has become so politicized that more than ever I think it should be put in the hands of the individual citizen,” said R-Norman Senator Rob Standridge.
“Before 2020, the vaccines were good,” said Senator Mary Boren, D-Norman.
In the Oklahoma State Capitol, the debate over Oklahoma’s best protection against COVID-19 rages on. A day after the U.S. Supreme Court repealed a federal corporate vaccine mandate, Oklahoma lawmakers are trying to do the same here.
“I’ve seen several bills that definitely eliminate the mandates,” said Standridge, a pharmacy owner.
Standridge was the author of one of at least seven bills limiting the number of vaccine mandates. His accounts allow employees to file claims against companies if they were injured after having to take the photo.
“If you force someone to put something, a chemical, into their body, you should be held accountable for the results,” he said.
sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, also filed a bill Friday making it “unlawful for any federal or state agency, political subdivision, or any corporation under contract with the state to require any resident of Oklahoma to submit to or COVID-19 vaccination or a variant thereof.”
Senate Democrats say this sounds more like political theater and pushing back the federal government.
“They are really taking advantage of the political climate related to COVID,” Boren said.
“We need to stop the spread of COVID, rather than this bickering about who is in control of which part,” Kirt said.
Meanwhile, school districts in the Sooner State have closed their doors or switched to virtual learning because so many teachers are sick with COVID.
Mid-Del Schools said on Tuesday that their students will be back in the classroom but must wear masks. However, the district said mask opt-outs filed earlier this year are still being honored.
Oklahoma City Public Schools previously announced that students will resume in-person learning on Tuesday. On Friday, the district said students will instead learn virtual on that day. However, OKCPS said there’s always a chance they’ll have to stick to online learning if there are still staffing issues next week.
“When the school is closed, you know, we have a hard time,” said Angelica Johnson, a parent of Norman Public Schools.
Johnson is just one of many parents who have to choose between working or staying home with her child. Fortunately, the Norman Parks and Rec Department has stepped up and provided assistance to parents in three locations for $25 per child. Parents believed that the care was worth the money.
“Just the importance of having them here to support me as a single parent has been immeasurable,” Johnson said.
“We are all one community working on this right now,” said Mitchell Richardson, the Supervisor of 12th Avenue Parks and Rec Center.
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