OKLAHOMA CITY – Starting Tuesday, House of Representatives space in the Capitol will have a mask policy consistent with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s executive order concerning masks for state buildings and employees.
“Because executive orders do not apply to the legislative branch, the House will observe the same mask policy the governor set for the rest of government. It’s a reasonable precaution with case counts rising in Oklahoma County and statewide,” said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka.
In partnership with the State Department of Health, the House has been developing multiple health and safety protocols for the upcoming legislative session, which begins with Organizational Day on Jan. 5, followed by the beginning of session Feb. 1.
“The House has worked for weeks on plans to remain functional in session by putting proper precautions in place for everyone’s safety. Strong protocols that are based on the guidance of health professionals and scalable should pandemic conditions change will be announced before session,” McCall said.
Prior to the governor’s announcement Monday, the House had already planned on testing one of its contingency plans by resuming a rotating in-office and virtual work schedule for House staff. Starting Tuesday, each House department will have half its staff in the office and half working virtually on a rotating basis to ensure that should the need arise, the House will have full functionality.
“The House functioned quite well virtually, without closing, for seven weeks during the spring shelter at home period. The rotating schedule for staff is one protocol we are testing now in the event virtual work becomes necessary again next session,” McCall said. “As we did successfully in the spring, we will continue to partner closely with health professionals on all pandemic protocols.”
Since March, the House has had a testing and quarantine policy in place that has been regularly updated based on the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and State Department of Health. Generally, the policy requires testing, remote work and quarantine for symptomatic employees, asymptomatic employees contacted by official state contact tracers, and asymptomatic employees who believe they had close contact with people who have tested positive.
Further plans under development for session will address legislative proceedings, room access and capacity, social distancing and personal protective equipment guidelines, virtual protocols, and other items as determined by health professionals.
“The protocols we enact should also involve everyone having realistic expectations, given the nature of this pandemic. Because strong protocols will minimize but not entirely eliminate the risk, we all must demonstrate flexibility and responsibility in order to continue conducting the people’s business safely,” McCall said.