OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma City City Council passed a face mask ordinance on Friday in their effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oklahoma City.
City leaders held a special council meeting to vote on a mandatory mask ordinance.
Council members passed the ordinance with a 6-3 vote after more than five hours of discussion and public comments.
The Council then voted 7-2 to make the ordinance an emergency. The ordinance goes into effect immediately and lasts until Sept. 8, unless the City Council takes further action.
Oklahoma City Councilman Mark Stonecipher proposed a mandatory mask mandate with common sense exceptions.
Under the ordinance, most citizens in Oklahoma City would be required to wear a mask while inside public buildings, with a few exceptions.
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt called the special meeting and voted for the measure.
“Of the top 50 largest American cities, 46* have a requirement to wear masks in indoor public places. Two-thirds of those requirements are the result of a mandate put in place by a Governor, but regardless of how they came to be, they set a standard for the individual behavior that is expected in order to keep our people safe and our cities open. Masks wearing in indoor public places is proven to dramatically reduce the rate of transmission, something we clearly need in Oklahoma City. (The four exceptions are Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Colorado Springs and Omaha,” Holt posted on Facebook earlier this week.
A face covering must cover both the nose and mouth. A face shield can be used as an alternative to a cloth face covering or mask, according to a news release issued by the City of Oklahoma City following the vote.
Exceptions to the ordinance’s face covering requirements include the following:
• Children age 10 and under, unless required by a school or daycare.
• 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).
• People engaged in cardio exercises. But people should make reasonable efforts to observe social distancing between groups of people from different households.
• 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.
• People with a developmental disability.
• People who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Under an amendment to the ordinance, a code enforcement officer or inspector who sees someone violating the ordinance “shall offer a face covering or the option of leaving the indoor place to a person who is not excepted from the face covering requirement. No citation shall [be] issued to a person who complies with one of the options.”
If the violator refuses the mask and refuses to leave, they could face a fine.
The ordinance includes a $9 fine for the first violation, $9 for the second, and not exceeding $100 for the third violation.
On Friday, council members held a virtual meeting regarding the ordinance.
Stonecipher says he has spoken to several people in the medical community, who said face masks could help prevent another spike in hospitalizations, especially during Labor Day weekend.
He says he read over several studies that showed that face masks do help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and added that face masks could help protect the economy.
In regards to criticism, Stonecipher says he has received some comments that a mask ordinance would take away an individual’s liberty. As a result, he decided to look up constitutional law cases that dealt with similar situations.
During the smallpox epidemic, a case in Massachusetts focused on whether or not citizens were required to get a smallpox vaccine. Ultimately, the court decided that citizens were required to get the vaccine in order to protect the community as a whole.
“Safety can trump your individual liberty,” Stonecipher said.
The main concern by many council members was the fines associated with violation. They stressed that they worried that many of the potential violators may simply be unable to afford a mask and cannot afford a fine.
Another concern was allowing officers to take ID and check for warrants before a patron has the opportunity to leave or accept a mask.
Similar measures have already been passed in Norman, Tulsa and Stillwater.
Dr. Patrick McGough, Executive Director of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, issued the following statement in support of the ordinance’s passage:
“The scientific and medical evidence is clear. Masks are the key to winning this battle against COVID-19 collectively as a community. We’re proud of the Oklahoma City Council for taking this critical step toward ensuring Oklahoma City has a fighting chance at reducing the spread of the virus in the weeks to come.
Results won’t happen overnight, but today’s action is a critical step in protecting our healthcare system, keeping our economy open and reducing avoidable COVID-19 deaths in our community.”Dr. Patrick McGough