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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The Norman City Council has passed an ordinance to require masks or face coverings in public in the City of Norman.

Council members debated the issue and listened to public comments Tuesday night for more than two hours.

“Your mask oughta say across it, ‘I care’, because if you don’t wear a mask, you don’t care,” said Norman resident Jim Robinson. 

“I do not consent to being forced to wearing a mask,” said Joe Shepard, another resident.

There were mixed reactions after the council passed the mandate. 

“It’s mainly when they’re inside retail establishments, restaurants, bars, things like that and when they can’t social distance,” said Norman Mayor Breea Clark. “You have the right to not wear a mask in your home, in your car, out walking around when you’re not around anybody, but now businesses have the right to not let you into their business if you refuse to comply.”

Mayor Clark says business will have signs posted and are allowed to turn away customers who aren’t wearing a mask. 

One family-owned business says customers are their top priority. 

“We should all be careful, and considerate, and we really have to think about each other,” said Julie Chagouri, whose family owns Grand Bargains. 

As far as punishment for not following the mandate, Mayor Clark says you won’t get fined for not wearing a mask. 

 “Businesses are fined for not having signage up and requiring the masks but if a customer walks in and is disturbing the peace or a criminal trespass, you know the business owner has asked them to leave, then the police can be called,” she added.

There are exceptions for children under the age of six, and those with mental health or physical restrictions, like Norman resident Catherine Simmons. 

She says respiratory problems make it hard for her to wear a mask while at work. 

“I have such problems breathing after wearing it for that long that it’s made it harder to breathe,” said Simmons. 

Meanwhile, Mayor Clark thinks more cities could follow suit, saying other mayors have already asked her for guidance. 

But for now, the debate continues. 

“To restrict and limit the way we live our lives and to mandate that is to me, poor decision making,” said resident Ricky Stapleton. 

“If we want to be warriors against this invisible plague, we must be able to do something to protect ourselves and our neighbors,” added Cynthia Dodd. 

For now there is a grace period while the city works to get signs and masks. Once they have those, businesses will be expected to comply. 

The ordinance states that the city will provide disposable masks to businesses to provide to customers who do not have their own. These masks are expected to arrive the week of July 13 and distribution sites will be announced soon.

Officials say the face coverings do not need to be a medical mask, but must cover the nose and mouth.

The ordinance allows for the following exceptions:

  • People or situations identified by the CDC where the wearing of a cloth face covering may exacerbate a physical or mental health condition, lead to a medical emergency, or introduce significant safety concerns. People exempted under this category shall consider the use of a face shield and the use of carryout, curbside pickup and online delivery services.
  • Restaurant and bar patrons while they are eating or drinking;
  • People exercising in communal outdoor spaces, or walking or others from the same household in communal outdoor spaces, provided social distancing is maintained;
  • Children under the age of six years old; 
  • Settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear a face covering such as when receiving dental or medical treatment and services;
  • Occupants inside a personal vehicle, personal office, or similarly private space while others outside the occupant’s household are not present;
  • Private homes; 
  • Private lodging rooms in places of public accommodation; and
  • Offices and workplaces that are not public service areas where physical distancing between employees and other occupants can be consistently maintained during hours of operation.

The masks ordinance lasts through November unless the mayoral declaration of emergency ends, or the city council takes action to end it sooner. 

For more information on COVID-19 in Norman, visit the city’s website.