Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
Editorial: Local data part of decision-making in schools lifting mask mandates
0 Comments

Editorial: Local data part of decision-making in schools lifting mask mandates

  • Updated
  • 0
{{featured_button_text}}
090421-tul-nws-tpscovid-p1 (copy)

Children wear masks as they wait to enter Council Oak Elementary School in Tulsa. Tulsa Public Schools has seen less than 1% of its students opt out of the district’s mask requirements, and COVID-19 cases among students have been dropping.

In the last few weeks, several Tulsa-area school districts have updated policies about mask-wearing, largely due to availability of local data.

Jenks schools suspended its requirement. Tulsa Public Schools has a stepped-down approach, likely eliminating masks requirements by the first of the year. Other district administrations and boards constantly review COVID-19 statistics.

This is how it’s supposed to be — locally elected board members making decisions based on what is happening in their communities and neighborhoods. The pandemic geographically waxes and wanes, requiring a targeted approach to mitigation. The more local the information, the more effective the prevention.

Critical to making the best choices is having accurate, up-to-date and specific data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The agency recently reversed a decision to withhold city and ZIP-code level information. It planned to go with county-level data — excluding COVID deaths by county — as part of a revamped website.

Officials were smart to change course. That localized information has been critical for mayors, school leaders and local public health workers who depend on it to make adjustments in prevention protocols.

It’s not just for implementing policies requiring masks; it’s also for lifting them. In some cases, residents have decided to get vaccinated based on the information.

Most State Health Department statistics, such as teen pregnancies and infant mortality, are categorized by county. But an ongoing pandemic necessitates treating statistics around the deadly virus differently.

In urban areas such as Tulsa, county-level data don’t help. Cities such as Sand Springs, Jenks, Broken Arrow and Sapulpa get dwarfed by the metro areas. It’s impossible to know if an uptick comes from one outlying community, a couple of neighborhoods or across the board.

Perhaps one day COVID-19 can be tracked at the county level, but we’re not there yet.

Officials are ready to make swift changes if the virus shows significant changes in variants, spread and breakthrough cases. School administrators and elected board members have proven they will make data-based decisions when it comes to public health.

If local leaders have better information, they will make better choices. Local data are the drivers of their actions.

We applaud the State Health Department officials for doing the right thing and keeping local COVID-19 data available.

Featured video:

Healthier Oklahoma Coalition panelists offer reminders about vulnerability of children, winter viruses and other risk factors.

0 Comments

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

Breaking News

News Alert