City Council

The Stillwater City Council discussed draft language for an ordinance requiring masks in public places but took no action. Michelle Charles/Stillwater News Press

The Stillwater City Council talked about a potential mask ordinance but didn’t go beyond that. After hearing from a handful of residents, most of whom opposed the idea of requiring masks, the councilors talked about the current situation regarding local COVID-19 cases and talked about what a mask requirement might accomplish.

Mayor Will Joyce has said he questions how much good a mask mandate would do given the passage of state laws designed to prevent mask mandates in public schools and colleges.

He noted that there has been some improvement in the numbers at Stillwater Medical Center but indicated it’s not time for anyone to let their guard down. Things are better but still not great, he said.

“When I say ‘improvement’ I mean they’re not busting at the seams,” Joyce said.

Over the past few months, Councilor John Wedlake, the only physician on the Council, has been pushing for a serious discussion about masking.

When the Council adopted a resolution Aug. 2 that strongly recommended people follow CDC recommendations and wear masks indoors, Wedlake said it didn’t go far enough.

Although trends are heading in a positive direction, the situation isn’t good by any means, he said, noting that city leaders don’t know what the fall will bring.

He too is tired of talking about masks, he said.

Wedlake addressed some of the comments and criticisms residents made about the changing medical guidance issued about COVID-19.

“CDC recommendations don’t change because we’re trying to fool you,” he said. “It’s because we learned new things.”

Referencing a study from Bangladesh that’s in pre-print and still has to go through the peer review process, Wedlake said it included 342,000 subjects and showed that even a modest increase in mask wearing can result in a statistically significant difference in the number infections. Mask wearing doesn’t have to be universal to help.

He ultimately wanted the Council to discuss what an ordinance might look like so they can have a draft ready to go “and hope to God we never have to use it.”

Joyce addressed criticism from resident Riley Flack that the draft ordinance under discussion is a “non-mandate mandate” that isn’t enforceable, saying that is absolutely true.

When the previous ordinance was in effect, there was no penalty for refusing to comply, no on got a ticket, no one got arrested, no business was fined, Joyce said. But anything that increases mask wearing is good.

Vice Mayor Alane Zannotti and Councilor Christy Hawkins said the situation seems to be different than it was the last time a mask ordinance was considered.

Last year schools, other institutions and even other cities were in lockstep with each other, Hawkins said.

Oklahoma State University and Stillwater Public Schools have both indicated they have another level they can go to if circumstances justify it, Joyce said. The City of Stillwater should be ready to come alongside and support them if it comes to that.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

Trending Video

Recommended for you