CORONAVIRUS

Michael Fowler wears a face mask as he waits for a Tulsa Transit bus at the Denver Avenue Station. Fowler had the flu recently and said he really doesn’t want to get sick again. He wants to be ready and ward off the coronavirus. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World

Tulsa residents and visitors have been asked repeatedly for months to wear a face mask in public, and many refuse.

In the past week, numbers of COVID-19 cases have risen sharply along with hospitalizations. Public health experts have made numerous appeals to don a face covering.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum made an impassioned plea for voluntarily wearing masks to avoid a mandate, saying hospital officials had expressed worry about capacity. He promised to act on recommendations from the county Health Department.

Experts say a mask, if worn and cleaned properly, can substantially reduce the spread of the coronavirus. It primarily protects others from unintentional contamination.

Still, this simple courtesy has been ignored by a sizable percentage of people.

Because of this lack of personal responsibility, it is time for the Tulsa City Council to pass a face mask requirement.

Such ordinances have already been implemented in Stillwater and Norman. The Oklahoma City Council is meeting this week with its county Health Department to consider a mask mandate.

The Tulsa Health Department notified Bynum that data show a requirement is necessary. The city’s legal team has examined similar municipal ordinances to present a measure to the City Council on Wednesday.

Two councilors, Kara Joy McKee and Vanessa Hall-Harper, were already writing a mask-mandate resolution.

The councilors need to pass this ordinance. A shared goal ought to be bringing the virus under control in a way that is enforceable.

By pulling together, people will remain healthy, and plans for reopening more institutions, such as schools and sports competitions, can be done more safely.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister emphasized this in a statement reacting to the state’s first virus-related death of a school-age child.

“We want schools to reopen this fall, but for that to happen, it is critical that Oklahomans take decisive actions now to mitigate spread of the virus. Wearing a mask around other people is a small sacrifice for the sake of literally saving lives.”

Governments have a responsibility to protect residents, and requiring a temporary mask in public does just that.


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