Stillwater’s ordinance requiring most people over age 5 to wear face coverings in public places takes effect Saturday and businesses are preparing for the new requirement.
The Stillwater Chamber of Commerce and Visit Stillwater are helping the City of Stillwater distribute boxes of disposable face masks and pre-printed copies of the signs businesses are required to post that let the public know masks are required.
The Chamber of Commerce and Visit Stillwater have each been given 15,000 masks to distribute to local businesses. The City of Stillwater is paying for the masks and printing from the $100,000 allocated under Ordinance 3452.
The city’s guidance is that each business can have up to 100 masks per day, as long as supplies last, Visit Stillwater CEO Cristy Morrison said.
Representatives can pick up their supplies at the Chamber office, 409 S. Main, or Visit Stillwater, 2617 W. 6th Ave.
Chamber President/CEO Justin Minges estimated his office had given out about 4,000 masks Friday. Morrison said her office had given masks and posters to 69 businesses.
The Chamber of Commerce and Visit Stillwater will continue their efforts Saturday to help businesses that have limited staff and weren’t able to make it down during regular hours.
The Chamber will be open 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. and Visit Stillwater will be open 8 a.m. - noon Saturday.
Morrison said she hopes the early morning hours Saturday will help business owners be ready to meet requirements when they open this weekend.
Stillwater’s Ordinance 3452, which required face coverings in public with some exceptions, was advanced from first reading on Monday and approved on second reading Thursday by a unanimous vote of the Stillwater City Council.
An emergency clause allowed it to take effect Saturday, after being accepted for publication in the local newspaper.
The issue of wearing masks or face coverings has created controversy in Oklahoma as it has across the country. Local leaders have said the absence of a statewide order forces them to take action, but they worry about a lack of consistency between communities.
Stillwater was the first city in Oklahoma to vote on such an ordinance, followed by Norman on Tuesday.
On Friday, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announced he had directed the City of Tulsa’s legal department to also draft an ordinance for its City Council to consider.
Bynum said he made the decision based on a recommendation from Dr. Bruce Dart of the Tulsa Health Department, who told the mayor that trend data indicates the need for an ordinance. The Tulsa City Council will meet with health officials early in the week and discuss the ordinance on Wednesday, Bynum said in a Facebook post.
The town of Stillwell hasn’t adopted an ordinance, but on Wednesday it began requiring people to wear face coverings in businesses that are open to the public. Mayor Jean Ann Wright said the decision was based on a recommendation by the Adair County COVID-19 Task Force after jumps in infection numbers statewide and in the county, according to the Talequah Daily Press. Citations for violating the order are under discussion.
It’s an issue neighboring states are also tackling.
Both Texas and Kansas have enacted statewide orders requiring face coverings to be worn in public.
In June, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson issued guidance that called for face masks to be work in public but stopped short of requiring them.
On July 3, Hutchinson signed an executive order that said cities could pass mandatory mask ordinances with local enforcement to help curb the spread of COVID-19. They are to use a model ordinance from the Municipal League for consistency.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has issued a public health order making face-coverings mandatory for people while out in public and inside businesses. It includes a $100 fine for violators.
Like Gov. Kevin Stitt, Missouri’s Gov. Mike Parsons has avoided issuing a statewide order, preferring to leave the decisions to local authorities. Many of the state’s larger cities have adopted some type of requirement or directive.
Stillwater made international news in May when city leaders said outbursts by customers at retail stores and an anonymous threat phoned in to the Stillwater Police Department led them to drop an emergency declaration requirement for face coverings in essential and non-essential businesses.
Stillwater’s current ordinance has no specific penalty for individuals who don’t comply but businesses that fail to post the required signage face a fine of $500.
Individuals who refuse to wear a face covering and are asked to leave a business could be arrested for trespass and anyone who commits assault is subject to prosecution under other city ordinances.
City Attorney John Dorman said businesses don’t have to require customers to wear masks, but if they don’t and they are identified as significant sources of COVID-19 infections, they could face penalties under the city’s nuisance ordinance or public health codes. They could also face the suspension of licenses.