Oklahoma schools reopening plan recommends wearing masks

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Department of Education released guidance Wednesday for how public schools could reopen in the fall that includes recommending the use of masks for staff and students to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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The department's Return to Learn Oklahoma framework for reopening schools lists several factors for individual districts to consider as they reopen.

The State Board of Education moved to shut down schools on March 16 amid the coronavirus outbreak, and schools then began implementing distance-learning plans to finish the school year.

“Educators know students will experience greater learning losses this year, given that the ‘summer slide’ has been compounded by the unconventional ending of the spring term,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said in a statement. “As they plan for the new school year, our districts are now focused on how to recapture learning and ensure the safety and health of students, staff and families."

Among the state's recommendations are screening protocols for staff, students and visitors prior to entering school sites, social distancing, minimizing gatherings, plans for handling positive cases and the wearing of masks or face coverings by students and staff.

OKLAHOMA STATE CASES

Oklahoma State University officials said Wednesday that three returning student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19 but weren't showing symptoms. Among them is OSU linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga, who said on Twitter that he tested positive after he attended a protest in Tulsa. Ogbongbemiga, 21, said he protected himself during the protest.

“Please, if you are going to protest, take care of yourself and stay safe,” he wrote.

Under guidelines released by the university on Tuesday, the students who tested positive will be moved to separate housing designated for quarantine purposes and contact tracing will begin with those who have been in contact with them.

Football coach Mike Gundy faced criticism when he suggested in April that his team should return to campus on May 1, a proposed timetable that defied federal guidelines and was quickly disputed by the university and its athletics director. Gundy, who also blamed the media for its negative coverage of what he called the “Chinese virus," later apologized.

LATEST COVID-19 NUMBERS

State health officials reported 113 new positive cases and two additional COVID-19 deaths since its last report on Tuesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases to more than 6,800, with 341 total deaths, although the actual number of positive cases is believed to be much higher because of testing shortages and because some people with the disease don’t show symptoms.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

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