The Oklahoma City Council is set to hash out whether to require face coverings in public places Friday afternoon.
The council on Thursday met virtually with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department and several other medical and legal officials to discuss the mask ordinance as well as the COVID-19 response in general.
After a presentation on the proposed terms of the ordinance drafted by Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher, council members discussed possible changes and enforcement.
The draft states that the face coverings would be required in public places on both public and private property. Exceptions were listed for those with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask.
The Oklahoma City Police Department would enforce the rule, according to the proposal. Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper said the OCCHD could be better suited for enforcement.
“My deep grave concern is the burdening of local law enforcement,” he said.
A schedule of tickets would be the punishment for noncompliance. Fifty dollars for the first offense, $250 for the second and $500 for the third, according to the proposed ordinance.
“It does have to have some teeth to it, or no one’s going to pay attention to it,” Stonecipher said.
Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice asked if the amounts could be “a little lower” as to not overburden individuals that do not have access to a mask.
Nice and others agreed that education and encouraging voluntary compliance should outweigh issuing tickets.
“We’re not here to fine people, we’re here to get them to wear the mask so they don’t get other people sick,” Stonecipher said.
City Manager Craig Freeman said that federal aid made available through the CARES Act could be used to equip officers, or whoever enforces the ordinance, with masks to distribute for free.
“I love the idea of that enforcement arm, in that first interaction, with someone without a mask, to be able to say, ‘here’s a mask.’ I think that can help lower tensions,” Cooper said.
The council will hear public comment and eventually vote on the ordinance in a special, virtual meeting that starts at 1 p.m. Friday. Changes could be made to the proposed ordinance before the council votes.