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mask mandate tulsa city council
People protest possible Tulsa mask mandate outside of city hall in Tulsa, Okla. (KTUL photo)

The Tulsa City Council met on Monday evening for a special session to discuss a city-wide mask mandate, echoing the footsteps of other cities across the United States as COVID-19 rages. However, the council did not have enough votes to proceed with a mandate, and the issue was tabled until the next scheduled meeting, August 25th. 

It was a disappointing outcome for many constituents who face concerns about school starting without a mask mandate in place. While Tulsa Public Schools lists masking as an expectation, no other local districts have implemented anything but mask recommendations.

Meanwhile, vaccination rates in Oklahoma lag, with only 40% of the state fully-vaccinated. Younger people have even more dismal rates, despite the Pfizer two-dose vaccine’s emergency approval by the FDA for young people over the age of 12. 

Personal responsibility wins out over community responsibility

Due to Senate Bill 658, school districts across the state are unable to impose mask mandates unless Oklahoma Governor Stitt declares a state of emergency. However, Governor Stitt, who believes in “personal responsibility” has vowed not to make such a declaration or emergency orders.

Despite pleas from doctors at St Francis Hospital System — which is publishing its own COVID19 database daily — and Tulsa County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart, four of the nine city councilors, along with Mayor G.T. Bynum, were unmoved.

The proposed ordinance would require every citizen over the age of four to wear a mask indoors, with certain exceptions. Opponents of the proposed ordinance cited personal freedoms to choose how to protect themselves and others during a global pandemic that has killed over 600,000 Americans. 

Pleas fall on deaf ears

While Dr. Dart pleaded with Tulsans to take care of each other, one attendee stated publicly, “Do not take away my choice to wear a mask or not to wear a mask.”

The city councilors in favor of a mask mandate were Vanessa Hall-Harper (District 1), Lori Decter Wright (District 7), Mykey Arthrell-Knezak (District 5), Kara Joy McKee (District 4) and Christa Patrick (District 3). The matter will be taken up at the next regular city council meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, August 25 at 6:00PM. 

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...

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