OKC City Council Passes Face Mask Ordinance


Friday, July 17th 2020, 6:15 pm
By: Brieon Sumlin


OKLAHOMA CITY -

In a vote Friday the Oklahoma City-City Council voted to pass a mask ordinance in an effort to help slow the spread of coronavirus in the state. The ordinance passed with a 6-to-3 vote.

During the meeting, several amendments were made to the original proposal which initially required anyone over the age of the 6 to wear a face covering in public settings and where social distancing was not possible. People with specific medical conditions are exempt from the ordinance.

One topic of concern to some members of the council was the penalties and price of the fines. Originally fines for the first offense were $50, $250 for the second and $500 for the third offense plus cost and fees.

In an 8-to-1 vote the council voted to approve the amendments to the original proposal.

The city council amended the age requirement to increase from 6 years old to 11 years old. Also changed, was the specific wording for what constituted as a face covering.

In that amendment, council members agreed that the fines should include cost and fees. The first fine was lowered to a $10 fine plus state mandated fees, equivalent to about $40, and $125 penalty including cost and state mandated fees for the second.

Several Oklahomans spoke out and gave their opinions both for and against an ordinance. Those in favor called on the city to listen to health officials and help to protect the citizens. Some who were against an ordinance said people should continue to have the freedom to choose whether or not to wear a mask.

Many citizens asked for more amendments to be made to the already amended proposal including the involvement of law enforcement and criminalization -- stating the risk it poses to people of the Black and brown community.

A final amendment was made and the council agreed in an 8-to-1 vote to amend the prices of the fines to $9 for the first and second offense and a $100 fine for the third offense.

After a more than 5-hour meeting, the council voted 7-to-2 to allow the ordinance to go into effect immediately.

The ordinance is set to expire September 8.

Oklahoma City Police Department Captain Larry Withrow issued the following statement in regards to the mandate:

Officers will not be proactively stopping people for mask violations.

Currently, officers are only responding to mask violations if another criminal violation is also being committed. For example, trespassing or disorderly conduct.

If officers are faced with a mask only violation, they will encourage voluntary compliance and complete a report if necessary.

Below is the detailed list of the OKC mandate requirements and enforcements:

Face covering requirements

Everyone in Oklahoma City age 11 and up is required to wear a face covering, like a mask or face shield, in indoor public spaces. There are some exceptions.

Public health officials also recommend face coverings for children age 3 and up, although it’s not a requirement in the emergency ordinance.

Face coverings are required only in indoor spaces open to the public, including private property.

The face covering must cover both the nose and mouth. A face shield is an alternative to a cloth face covering or mask. Here are general CDC recommendations about cloth face coverings and masks.

Exceptions to face covering requirements are:

  1. Children age 10 and under, unless required by a school or daycare.
  2. People working in an office who don’t have face-to-face interactions with the public.
  3. Patrons of restaurants, bars and similar establishments while eating or drinking.
  4. People in settings where it isn’t practical or feasible to wear a face covering, like receiving dental services, swimming or playing at a sprayground.
  5. People engaged in sports (including for recreation).
  6. People engaged in cardio exercises. But people should make reasonable efforts to observe social distancing between groups of people from different households.
  7. People inside any federal, state or county building or facility.
  8. People inside a public or private school building or facility, unless required by the school.
  9. People at a religious service or ceremony where social distancing is observed between groups of people from different households.
  10. People with a developmental disability.
  11. People who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

The requirements expire Sept. 8, unless the Council takes further action.

Enforcement

The ordinance allows for enforcement by the Police Department, or code inspectors from the OKC-County Health Department (OCCHD) and the City’s Development Services Department. The Council prefers enforcement by code inspectors when possible.

When responding to calls for enforcement, inspectors or officers will first offer a mask or an opportunity for the person to leave the public, indoor space.

People who refuse to wear the mask or leave would be subject to a fine of $9 on a conviction for a first or second offense. The fine would rise to a maximum of $100 for third and subsequent offenses.

People with a medical condition preventing them from safely wearing a mask can produce a document from their physician confirming that information, and will not be subject to a conviction and fine.

For more information, click here.

This story will be updated.