With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, the Tahlequah City Council is set to vote Monday night on an ordinance to would require facial coverings, although a number of exemptions are included.
According to the ordinance, the mandate is for a “face covering” and not a “mask.” A face covering should fully and securely cover a person’s nose and mouth. The includes cloth face masks, towels, scarves, and bandanas that are recommended by the Center for Disease Control or the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
If the ordinance passes, those working in public service areas of places of public accommodation – or any building or facility on Tahlequah Public School campuses, Indian Capital Technology Center, Northeastern State University, and any private school or preschool – are required to wear face coverings at all times.
According to the proposed ordinance, public settings include: workplaces, offices, churches, sports facilities, outdoor spaces such as parks, trails, and sidewalks.
Exceptions to the ordinance would be made for those who have medical or mental health conditions, or developmental disabilities.
“Persons exempted under this subsection should consider the use of a face shield, provided that said shield wraps around the sides of the wearer’s face and extends below to the chin,” the ordinance reads.
Children under age 10 are exempted from wearing face coverings, as are restaurant and bar patrons while they are eating or drinking.
As long as individuals are practicing social or physical distancing outdoors, engaged in exercising walking, or playing, they are exempt from wearing face covers.
Individuals can be exempted when receiving dental services, medical treatments, or swimming, since officials consider it impractical or infeasible to cover the face.
“Occupants in a personal vehicle, personal office, or similarly private space while other persons outside of the person’s household are not present,” the ordinance reads.
Businesses can deny entry to anyone who refuses to wear a face cover. Those who refuse to wear the covering could face several penalties, including trespassing, disturbing the peace, or disorderly conduct.
The ordinance would expire Nov. 30 unless unless all COVID-19 emergency declarations issued by state and nation officials expire, or there is a repeal, or modification/extensions approved by the City Council.
“It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the peace, health, safety, and public good of city of Tahlequah and the inhabitants thereof due to the COVID-19 pandemic that the provisions of this ordinance become operative immediately,” the ordinance says. “Therefore, an emergency is hereby declared to exist and this ordinance shall be in full force and effect immediately from and after the date of publication.”
A full copy of the ordinance is on the Daily Press website. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. via Zoom. The meeting ID is 864 4590 8028, and the password is 509971.