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Tulsa Makes Face Masks Mandatory

Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum signs an ordinance requiring the use of face masks in public.

Starting immediately, face masks must be worn in the City of Tulsa.

On Wednesday evening, Tulsa City Council voted 7-2 to adopt an ordinance that requires the use of face coverings in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. It's similar to one passed by Stillwater City Council last week.

The ordinance requires face coverings to be worn in:

  • places offering goods, services or items to the public (restaurants, bars, banks, personal services)
  • places where employees interact with the public
  • public settings where social distancing cannot be maintained (offices, churches, gyms, trails, parks)
  • educational institutions (except for playing surfaces during games or practices)

People exempt from the face-covering requirement include children under the age of 18, people of the same household walking or exercising in communal outdoor spaces and people with certain disabilities or medical conditions. People are also exempt while eating or drinking, while receiving dental or medical services or while swimming.
Face coverings will also not be required in private homes, personal vehicles, personal offices or offices and workplaces that are not public service areas and where physical distancing can be maintained.

There is no specific fine or penalty for violators, but those who refuse to wear a face covering can be subject to prosecution under criminal trespassing, disturbing the peace or a similar offense.

The emergency ordinance went into effect Thursday morning when Mayor GT Bynum signed it. It will expire on November 30, unless repealed, modified or extended by the council.

"We do this at the request of our hospitals, our doctors and nurses, our school leaders, and so many more who want to protect the ability of local health care systems to serve Tulsans in need," Bynum said in a statement.

Oklahoma City will consider a face mask mandate during a special council meeting on Friday. Mayor David Holt says his team has been working on a response to elevated levels of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

He's called a special meeting Friday afternoon to consider an ordinance by city councilman Mark Stonecipher that would require face masks in indoor public places. Holt said there will be ‘common sense’ exceptions to the plan, but its intent is to lower the demand on hospitals.

Norman, Stillwater, Stilwell and Altus have all recently passed mask mandates. Enid voted against a mask mandate on Wednesday.

Michael Cross is the host of KOSU's Morning Edition.
Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
Kateleigh Mills was the Special Projects reporter for KOSU from 2019 to 2024.
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