OKC requires masks in public
Oklahoma City Council passed an ordinance, 6-3, requiring people to wear masks in the city’s public indoor areas after an emergency meeting held this afternoon. The mask order will take effect immediately and expires Sept. 8 unless the Council extends it.
Councilmen James Greiner, Todd Stone and Larry McAtee voted against it.
The ordinance is not enforced in federal, state or county buildings. The face covering will require individuals age 11 and up to cover both the nose and the mouth.
On Thursday, Mayor David Holt and the City Council met virtually with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department for 4.5 hours to discuss recommendations regarding a potential mask ordinance.
During a news conference this week, Governor Kevin Stitt announced he tested positive for the virus and has said he will not mandate masks throughout the state.
“A lot of businesses are requiring it, and that’s fine,” Stitt said. “I’m just hesitant to mandate something that I think is problematic to enforce.”
OKC is one of many cities throughout the state joining for emergency meetings to revisit mask mandates as hospitals reach capacity. The meetings have spread across the metro and each have come to different conclusions for their communities.
The ordinance outlines potential exceptions and punishments. It also covers the time period involving the Labor Day holiday.
If convicted, a first violation is a maximum $9 city fine. A second violation is a maximum $9 city penalty, but a third violation will require a court appearance with a possible penalty not exceeding $100 inclusive of costs and state mandated fees.
The council debated the ordinance. City Councilman James Cooper, voted for the ordinance and said, “All I can see is my mother, delivering groceries to her porch, seeing her through that glass door, wearing my mask even with the glass … because the idea that I could harm her with this infection if I was asymptomatic and bring my mother’s death — it is pure horror. That’s how I feel wearing a mask in public.”
Cooper represents Ward 2 and is an adjunct at UCO. He added at the end of his summation:
“There are no expendable Oklahomans. And that includes my mother.”
Councilwoman Nikki Nice reminded the Council that people busy with work might not hear about the ordinance, similar to those who were unaware of the curfew issued earlier in June.
The council reduced the fines stating the purpose of the ordinance is to relieve the burden on hospitals, not to create a burden for poorer citizens.
Exceptions to the mask requirement would be:
- Children 10 and under, unless required by a school or daycare.
- People with a disability, including deaf or hard of hearing.
- People working in an office who don’t have face-to-face interactions with the public.
- Patrons of restaurants, bars and similar establishments while eating or drinking.
- People in settings where it isn’t practical or feasible to wear a face covering, like receiving dental services, swimming or playing at a sprayground.
- People engaged in sports (including for recreation) or cardio exercises.
- People inside any federal, state or county building or facility.
- People inside a public or private school building or facility, unless required by the school.
- People at a religious service or ceremony where social distancing is observed between groups of people from different households.
On Wednesday, Enid City Commission voted against a mask ordinance. The emergency meeting lasted more than four hours. The city of Tulsa also met Wednesday. Tulsa City councilors voted 7-2 to approve a face covering ordinance.
Last week Edmond renewed but did not amend the state of emergency and encouraged people to wear masks. In early July, Norman City Council passed an ordinance requiring residents to wear facial coverings when outside their homes.
Retailers across the country have made masks a requirement in their stores regardless of the where cities or states stand on the issue. The list includes businesses such as Walmart, Target, Starbucks, Best Buy, Kohl’s and Kroger Co. A list of national retail chains can be found here. Walgreens is also joining the list of businesses requiring a mask starting Monday.
The Centers for Disease Control has advice for wearing masks effectively. The CDC says cloth face coverings are an additional step to help slow the spread of COVID-19 when combined with every day preventive actions and social distancing in public settings.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health is reporting 699 new COVID-19 cases and seven more deaths in Oklahoma. The state now has a total of over 24,000 confirmed cases with 445 deaths.
The OSDH has developed the Oklahoma COVID-19 Alert System; a four-tiered risk measurement tool with corresponding color categories that identify the current COVID-19 risk level. This tool offers the public and local elected officials an easy way to recognize each county’s risk level.
As of Friday, officials said 15 more counties are moved to the “orange” risk zone. While no counties at this time are in the red zone, OSDH continues to monitor closely the statewide hospitalization trends for COVID-19.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.