The Oklahoman

OKC City Council rejects mandate

Vote comes amid surge in new COVID-19 cases

- Hogan Gore

The Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday rejected a propositio­n to reinstate a mask mandate and an effort to incentiviz­e vaccines after hearing from a number of mask and vaccine contrarian­s.

The ordinance failed to reach the seven-vote threshold required for emergency adoption by a 4-to-5 vote, which followed an uproar from several members of the crowd who were nearly removed and a failed effort by Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper to amend the ordinance to allow for a simple majority vote.

Before the contentiou­s vote, councilmem­bers received an update on COVID-19 transmissi­on, vaccinatio­n and hospital occupancy rates from the Oklahoma City-County Health


Transmissi­ons are high, new hospital admissions are up 60% from the beginning of August and ICU bed occupancy has increased by 30% during the same time.

COVID-19 numbers show September is “not going to be pleasant for any of us in Oklahoma City, vaccinated and unvaccinat­ed, if we don’t accept some harsh realities,” Mayor David Holt said after the council meeting on Tuesday, at a news conference at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department’s northeast campus.

Early signs of a plateau of COVID-19 cases were replaced over the last few days with a new surge on top of the surge we were already experienci­ng, Holt said. The Oklahoma City metro area is now averaging about 800 new COVID-19 cases a day, nearing its pandemic-high of 1,000.

“We’re on the worst-case scenario,” said Phil Maytubby, chief operating officer of the city-county health department, when addressing the strain on hospital infrastruc­ture during the council meeting. “Here in recent times, nothing comes close to COVID.”

Ward 1 Councilman Bradley Carter then sparred with Maytubby before public comment, challengin­g him on the efficacy of both vaccines and masks.

Much of the crowd filling the gallery in the council chambers cheered the interactio­n, switching to jeers as Maytubby explained the relevance of vaccinatio­ns.

“Everyone gets to speak in this room; it’s a beautiful thing,” shouted Holt while gaveling the room back to order.

The room did speak. For a couple of hours.

Oklahoma City residents and many others from surroundin­g communitie­s such as Yukon and Edmond were well represente­d, giving impassione­d threeminut­e speeches against the perceived tyranny of mandated mask wearing.

Shouting over councilmem­bers, cheering during confrontat­ion and ignoring the gavel were the apparent rules of engagement as the meeting muddled along.

“I’m reclaiming my time, I’m reclaiming my time,” commanded Councilwom­an Nikki Nice as she cut through the disagreeab­le crowd, rebutting and condemning an earlier public comment that compared mask mandates to Jim Crow era laws.

Some focused on their own personal experience­s of the pandemic, others tried to call on the council to defend the Constituti­on while some mentioned home remedies such as ivermectin to combat the pandemic. The drug is not an approved remedy.

Meeting attendees cited several concerns with mask mandates, ranging from government overreach, a transition to an authoritar­ian society, the imposition on individual rights and the outright rejection of the validity of masks and vaccines.

The mask ordinance was purposed by Councilmem­bers Cooper, Nice and JoBeth Hamon in concert with a resolution to promote and incentiviz­e COVID-19 vaccinatio­ns.

The ordinance would have required masks be worn indoors and in public places, and the resolution would have started the process of researchin­g how to best promote vaccinatio­ns.

Shortly after the votes on the mask ordinance and vaccine incentives, Holt made a plea for residents to get vaccinated and wear a mask as the city faces a surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitaliz­ations.

“Bottom line, this new surge on top of an existing surge is going to crush our hospitals, and we all need our hospitals,” Holt said.

To that end, Holt had two requests for residents: Get vaccinated if you’re not already, and for the next few weeks, use common sense and wear masks in indoor, public spaces.

“Do those two things and we’ll get through this, and we can get back to where we were just a couple months ago,” he said.

A year ago the city enacted its first mask mandate on a temporary basis on July 17, and renewed the order about every six weeks until it expired April 30.

“Masks have worked throughout the pandemic and are still working,” Health Board Chairman Gary Raskob and Health Department Executive Director Dr. Patrick McGough wrote in a letter to Holt after a board meeting in March.

The measure as proposed on Tuesday would not have required masks in public or private schools. Churches would be exempt as long as social distancing is observed.

Those same exceptions and others were part of the previous ordinance.

Contributi­ng: Staff writer Dana Branham

 ?? CHRIS LANDSBERGE­R/THE OKLAHOMAN ?? Oklahoma City Council members Todd Stone and municipal counselor Kenneth Jordan, from left, attend a city council meeting on Aug. 3. On Tuesday, the council voted not to reinstate a mask mandate during a contentiou­s meeting.
CHRIS LANDSBERGE­R/THE OKLAHOMAN Oklahoma City Council members Todd Stone and municipal counselor Kenneth Jordan, from left, attend a city council meeting on Aug. 3. On Tuesday, the council voted not to reinstate a mask mandate during a contentiou­s meeting.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States