Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt announced Wednesday the city council will vote on a proposed citywide mask requirement in a special meeting Friday afternoon.
The proposed ordinance outlines where face coverings would be required, what qualifies as an exception and how it would be enforced.
Masks would need to cover one’s mouth and nose, and would be required “in indoor spaces open to the public, including private property,” according to the proposal.
Oklahoma City police would enforce the ordinance with a schedule of tickets. Fifty dollars for the first offense, $250 and $500 for the second and third, respectively.
As of Wednesday evening, the ordinance would expire on Sept. 8. If seven or more council members vote in favor, the ordinance would go into effect immediately. If only 5 or 6 members vote ‘yes’ then it would go into effect Aug. 21.
Holt said Wednesday that he would support a mask requirement to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“I still struggle with the enforceability of it, but I do recognize that it sets the standard for the kind of behavior that is expected,” he said.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma, Canadian and Cleveland County hospitals has steadily increased by the day recently, according to the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.
Although there is surge capacity available to ensure each patient can find a bed, Holt said staffing hospitals is a growing issue.
“We’re already at a point where staffing is a bit of a challenge,” Holt said. “It’s not necessarily that today’s escalated levels are breaking our health care system, it’s that they keep going up every single day.”
Referring to hospitalization levels, Holt said, “we’ve got to turn this direction around before it’s too late.”
Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee said he does not support a mask requirement for two reasons: It’s not the government’s responsibility to require mask-wearing, he said, and that wearing masks might not help stop the spread of the virus.
“I think there is a question as to whether masks are good or bad,” McAtee said. “Based on the information that I’ve had, and the way that the experts have changed their tune as we’ve progressed through this, I’m not sure that masks would abate the epidemic.”
The council is set to discuss the mask ordinance and the city’s COVID-19 response in general at a meeting with OCCHD Thursday morning at 8:30. The meeting to address the mask ordinance is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Friday.