Claremore became the latest city in the Tulsa area to pass a face-covering requirement at an at-times contentious special Friday evening meeting of the City Council.
The mandate passed with a 5-2 vote, with Councilors Dennis Grace, Scott Savage, Ken Hays and Will DeMier and Mayor Bill Flanagan voting in favor.
Councilors Justin Michael and Brian Callender voted against the mandate. Michael said he considered voting for the mandate because he feared a looming shutdown, but not one he claimed was based in fact.
“I have employees from my other businesses, and I worried we might be shut down,” Michael said. “I’m not worried we might be shut down because of cases. I’m worried we might be shut down because of political influence forcing our leadership to shut me down for no good reason.”
Callender said there was “no way in hell” he would vote for a mandate and joined Michael in claiming that mandates elsewhere, Tulsa included, aren’t working to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Callender claimed that the continued spread of the virus isn’t from a lack of face coverings but from people not washing their hands.
The coronavirus is airborne, and scientists with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House Coronavirus Task Force, state and county health departments, and educational and medical institutions agree that mask mandates appear to have contributed to the mitigation of COVID-19 transmission.
Claremore’s mask mandate vote came the same day Oklahoma recorded 15 more deaths from COVID-19 — including one in Rogers County, where Claremore is the county seat — and 2,921 new cases statewide.
In a presentation earlier in the meeting, Claremore Fire Chief Sean Douglas, also the town’s emergency management director, said the city saw an additional 44 cases Friday and had 494 active cases citywide.
Douglas also said the city’s six available hospital beds designated for COVID-19 patients had been full or nearly full for the past week.
“We have a person in the county that is coordinating where people go when they need a hospital bed,” Douglas said. “Trying to find a bed that is staffed is kind of tricky. Our local EMS agency has actually delivered people to Nebraska, Kansas City and Houston, Texas, in order to get people a bed that’s staffed.”
Multiple residents spoke before councilors discussed the mandate, with several encouraging a ‘no’ vote. After the meeting adjourned, people in the audience could be heard on Facebook Live saying they would “shop in Catoosa and Owasso now” and that they “will remember this come next election.”
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