COVID-19 Presser 03/14 (copy)

Tulsa Mayor G.T Bynum, shown with Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart, says he may be forced to issue a mask mandate for Tulsa.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart said Wednesday that if local COVID-19 statistics don’t end their rapid rise, he will recommend to area mayors that they issue face mask mandates for anyone who is in a public place.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said he will listen to Dart’s recommendations and that a mandatory face covering order could be in place in a matter of days. He said the city’s legal officials are researching the best practices from other cities on how a mask order could be implemented in Tulsa.

Order or no order, every Tulsan who is in a public place where they cannot maintain a safe distance from others should be wearing a mask. It’s a matter of good hygiene and good manners.

The best evidence available shows that cloth masks can stop up to 90% of droplets that can carry the COVID-19 germs. Modeling shows that if over 80% of the public wore masks, the pandemic would drop off markedly.

Locally, the numbers are going the wrong way. Of 4,571 confirmed infections in Tulsa County, 1,048 are still active. Some 206 new infections were reported Wednesday. The county’s seven-day rolling average, 146.7, is nearly a record.

You don’t wear a mask for your own protection. You do it for the protection of others.

We’re unsure how many people will only start wearing a mask because a city order requires it, but if too few people are wearing them without a mandate — and anecdotal evidence says that’s very true — then a government mandate will be inevitable.

Bynum has shown before that he isn’t afraid to take aggressive steps recommended by Dart and the Health Department to protect the health of the public. He says he hopes he doesn’t have to issue a mask mandate or take even more aggresive steps, but he will do so, if that’s what it takes to protect the integrity of the health care system.

A mask mandate isn’t an imposition on anyone’s civil rights, and it won’t endanger anyone’s health. It’s a step that’s already in place in the majority of states, including freedom-loving Texas.

If you don’t want to live under a mask mandate, good. Every Tulsan can do something right now to make that not happen: They can start wearing masks voluntarily.

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