Sand Springs City Council unanimously passed a citywide ordinance that will require face coverings in public places on Monday, Nov. 23 during a special meeting held inside the Case Community Center.
The Council voted 6-0 in favor of Ordinance No. 1359 COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Response Measure. The ordinance mandate went into effect as of Friday, pending publication (see PHOTOS).
The ordinance is defined as “persons located within all City of Sand Springs public buildings, public service areas of places of public accommodation or an educational institution are required to wear face coverings at all times when present therein. Except as otherwise provided herein, persons in any public setting wherein social or physical distancing cannot be maintained are required to wear face coverings.”
According to the council, face coverings include but are not limited to cloth facemasks, towels, shields, scarfs and bandanas.
Council stated they will continue to review the ordinance on a monthly basis, as has been the case since the early stages of the pandemic.
The face coverings mandate does have certain exceptions which include children under age 10, restaurant patrons while they are eating or drinking, persons exercising in communal outdoor spaces, settings where it is not practical or feasible to wear face coverings such as dental services, medical treatments or while swimming, occupants in a personal vehicle, personal office or similarly private space, anyone exercising at a gym or indoor facility as long as they remain six feet of distance from each other, religious facilities, private homes, 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 and individuals engaged in team sports activities.
The ordinance is in response to continually rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community. As of Monday, Sand Springs had a record-high 291 confirmed cases according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health data, a 385% increase since Oct. 29, the steepest incline in the immediate Tulsa metro area.
Sand Springs has also recorded three virus-related deaths in the past week and 11 overall since the pandemic data was first tracked in March.
“It’s only been here recently that our numbers have skyrocketed,” said Sand Springs Police Chief and City COVID-19 coordinator Mike Carter. “That’s what brings us here (on Monday night). We didn’t adopt an ordinance because didn’t feel it was necessary at that point. But now something has got to break that cycle.”
Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart was among those on hand who spoke to the council.
“This is not an easy conversation,” Dart said. “It is not something that anyone wants to do. But if we’re going to keep our community safe and our neighbors’ safe, we’ve all got to come together … It’s not about politics for us at the health department. It’s just not. We want to keep people safe. We want our community to not have to experience it. We want our children to be able to go to school and learn.”
While the ordinance did pass unanimously, many in the audience were not in agreement with the decision. Dozens of people attended the meeting. Many came with signs and some voiced their displeasure with the ordinance.
“There’s a lot of people who are against being forced to do something,” said Beth Dupree. “They go shop in Broken Arrow, who will never pass a mask mandate. They leave Sand Springs and go shop elsewhere.”
Susanna Nolen said implementing the ordinance is a threat to public safety.
“How does that play in with the security?,” Nolen said. “I’m not going to answer the door to my house if somebody has a mask. All that I can see is their eyes. If someone is convicted of a crime, how can we even convict them if all we can see is their eyes? This is a dangerous, slippery slope.”
While she would not prefer to have the ordinance in place, vice mayor Patty Dixon said she felt it was her duty to support the measure. Dixon came to that conclusion after she recently tried to reach out to each registered voter in Ward 2 regarding the issue.
“I don’t want to be the one telling people what they have to do,” Dixon said. “I don’t like government overreach. I think people should take personal responsibility. I believe in all of that … But (among her constituents) it was overwhelming, they want us to pass a mask mandate. And those are the people that elected me. I have been elected to represent.”
“It’s only been here recently that our numbers have skyrocketed. That’s what brings us here (on Monday night). We didn’t adopt an ordinance because didn’t feel it was necessary at that point. But now something has got to break that cycle.”Sand Springs Police Chief and City COVID-19 coordinator Mike Carter
“It’s only been here recently that our numbers have skyrocketed. That’s what brings us here (on Monday night). We didn’t adopt an ordinance because didn’t feel it was necessary at that point. But now something has got to break that cycle.” - Sand Springs Police Chief and City COVID-19 coordinator Mike Carter