Mayor G.T. Bynum announced Friday that he will present the City Council with a proposed ordinance next week that would require Tulsans to wear face coverings in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
City councilors are expected to vote on the proposal as early as Wednesday.
“Today, Dr. Bruce Dart of the Tulsa Health Department notified my office that continued trend data indicates the need for an ordinance requiring face covering in public places,” Bynum said in a Facebook post. “This is necessary to slow the current rate of viral spread that will endanger our health care system’s ability to treat those in need if it is not addressed.”
Bynum was not available for comment Friday.
Earlier this week, he said the city’s legal team is looking at such orders in other cities and states, and questions such as whether people would only need to wear them while inside businesses, what ages, and if an enforcement focus would be on individuals or businesses would still need to be determined.
“The concern that I’ve heard … is that we need to make sure if we are going to put that kind of massive responsibility on local law enforcement, we have to be able to enforce that,” Bynum said.
Details of the proposed ordinance will not be available until next week, but THD spokeswoman Leanne Stephens said Dart’s recommendation is in line with guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dart is recommending that Tulsans wear “a face covering in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” Stephens said.
Tulsa County’s rolling 7-day average reached a high of 148 on Friday, and hospitalizations are on the rise, according to THD.
“Without further efforts, we will not see a sustained decrease in disease transmission. The science is clear that the use of cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings,” Dart said. “Therefore, I recommend city municipalities take action to put a mask ordinance in place requiring face covering in public places to lessen the spread in our community.”
Tulsa County saw 122 new cases Thursday and 135 new cases Friday, increasing the total number of active cases to 994. The deaths of three more Tulsa County residents were reported Friday, bringing the total to 75.
The mayor’s announcement came as city councilors were preparing a resolution calling for a mask requirement. Councilor Kara Joy McKee said Friday that she and fellow Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper were planning to present the resolution to their colleagues next week.
McKee said she and Hall-Harper believe they could have garnered unanimous support for the measure.
“We were doing this before we found out about what the mayor had come forward with, and G.T. had staff contact me and say, ‘Hang on a minute, I’m working on an ordinance, we’ll have more details soon,’” McKee said. “And I responded that it is fine, if the ordinance comes through, then we’ll go with that. I am going to put a placeholder for this resolution, and if the ordinance doesn’t come, we’re going with the resolution. So one way or another, this is happening.”
Norman and Stillwater have already enacted ordinances requiring people to wear face coverings in public, and Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt indicated Friday that his city is considering a similar requirement.
“In Oklahoma City, our City Council has already called for a special joint meeting with our Oklahoma City-County Health Department that will occur Thursday,” Holt said in a tweet. “At that meeting, the nine members of Council will hear the recommendations of OCCHD regarding a mask ordinance (and other aspects of mitigation response).”
The move toward requiring people in Oklahoma’s two largest cities to wear masks comes a day after Gov. Kevin Stitt said he has no plans to issue a statewide mask requirement.
Stitt said Thursday that Oklahoma continues to effectively manage its hospital COVID-19 case capacity.
“I’m not comfortable with mandating masks,” he said. “It’s not something that I would do. The first question is, when you mandate something, is how do you enforce it?
“We’re not going to mandate masks in the state of Oklahoma. We’re not going to be mask shamers, either.”
The governor encouraged Oklahomans to continue to practice social distancing and other measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
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