Teacher Blames Oklahoma Lawmakers As COVID's Delta Variant Spreads In Schools

Monday, August 23rd 2021, 5:19 pm
By: Brittany Toolis

An Oklahoma high school teacher is pointing the finger at state lawmakers and the governor as the reason he tested positive for COVID-19. He cited Senate Bill 658 which bans mask mandates in schools.

The Putnam City Schools teacher said he and his family took every precaution for the last 18 months to avoid the virus. 

The educator, Aaron Baker, said after he walked the mostly unmasked halls last week, he began to feel symptoms, and then tested positive for COVID.

"The problem for me, and all of the blame lies with the lawmakers, in particular the governor, who is behind the legislation," Baker said.

Baker left his Putnam City High School classroom on Friday with a sore throat and a slight cough and tested positive for COVID on Saturday. 

He puts the blame on SB 658, which bans school districts from the implementation of district wide mask mandates as the reason he got infected for the first time.

"There's a big part of me that was very anxious to get back into the classroom five days a week. This was literally the first time I've taught five days since March of 2020," said Baker. "It likely happened inside my classroom because most other interactions are very short, but no one in my classroom is to fault."

Baker aired his grievances in a blog post titled "Oklahoma Senate Bill 658 Gave Me COVID-19" where he said SB 658 creates an occupational hazard for school employees statewide.

"I can recollect coughing behind my mask in my classroom on Friday. I'm just very grateful that all the times I remember feeling that cough at school on Friday, I had that mask on," Baker said. "I just didn't think it would be me, and I didn't think it would be this soon."

The law, which went into effect July 1, said districts can only mandate masks if Gov. Kevin Stitt declares a state of emergency. Most districts encourage masks for students and staff.

"But when you use a word like encourage, that makes it an option," said Baker. "I firmly believe that most people are rule followers, and if we had the ability to have a mask mandate, our students will follow that just as they did last year."

Baker is expected to be back in the classroom early next week.