Locals offer opinions on facial masks

Sheri Gourd | Daily Press

Cherokee County Health Department staff are required to wear masks. Working behind the window are Donna Renden-Mendez, administrative technician, and Kristye K. Adams, coordinating nurse.

Administrators of the Facebook group “Connecting Tahlequah during COVID-19” have been diligent about posting updated science and political information. And over the past several weeks – especially since most businesses have reopened, to some degree – masks have been a popular topic.

“Based on a couple of threads that have been shared in the group recently, the admin team thought it might be helpful to compile a spreadsheet of businesses in Tahlequah and the safety measures they are taking. This will allow Tahlequah residents to make informed decisions about where to shop safely,” posted Beth Melles, group admin.

Tahlequah businesses owners or managers are asked to fill out the form, and Melles will transfer the information to a Google spreadsheet which she will share with the group. The form is at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe4fGb4YUrbPmJx-E_I-3eU2blCECycgYV0iqi3sVe711BF0w/viewform?usp=sf_link.

Cricket Wireless Manager Lisa Baker said all employees are required to wear masks.

“It’s a company policy to protect the customers,” said Baker. “Some people come in and say it’s ridiculous, and others are thankful. Those are the ones we are appreciative of.”

Employees who get hot or need a break can go into the back room and remove their masks. Baker believes it is better to be safe than sorry.

“There are those of us who work in businesses who are exposed repeatedly. We would be greatly appreciative of those who would wear masks when they come in businesses,” she said.

Display phones have been removed from the store front. If a customer wants to see a particular phone, an employee will bring it out, but the customer cannot touch it.

Employees at Lift Coffee Bar have to wear masks anytime they interact with customers or make food or drinks, according to Jarrod Railey, general manager.

“We wear masks to help the community to continue to feel safe and protest our employees,” he said.

While Lift doesn’t require customers to wear masks, and he hasn’t heard any negativity about the staff wearing masks, Railey doesn’t think some in the community would respond well if masks were mandatory.

For the June 27 Saturday Forum on Facebook, the Daily Press asked, in part: "With the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in most southern states, including Oklahoma, some are suggesting that the governor – or perhaps mayors – make the wearing of masks mandatory in public until the infection rate stabilizes. Do you think this is a good idea? If not, is there any point when you might think it prudent for masks to be mandatory? Do you already wear a mask yourself, and when? What about where you work; what policies are in place? If you oppose wearing a mask, or being ordered to do so, do you avoid businesses and other entities that require it?"

Teresa Turner posted that mayors and governors don't have the medical training to determine what is best.

“And even the so-called 'experts' can't agree and have changed what they say several times already,” Turner said.

Tabatha Hibbs replied to that, saying it’s because experts have been continually learning about this new virus, its infection rates, and how it spreads.

“That is how science works. People learn new things. The most up-to-date information from ALL experts – not people pretending to be experts – is that we should wear masks to protect others in the event we are infected. Since many people are asymptomatic and can spread the virus without knowing they are sick, we should all wear masks because it is the responsible and caring thing to do,” said Hibbs.

Alex Perry commented that mandatory wearing of masks should not be enforced unless the disease is more infectious and deadly.

“I understand the fact that there's no cure or vaccine for this disease, but neither is there for other much more infectious and deadly diseases. I am a supporter of taking necessary precautions when there's something new; however, this is no longer new and we now know much more about the disease. If it were to mutate, that would be a different story, though,” said Perry. “Also, if masks were made mandatory, then it should be made mandatory that the state or federal government provide medically certified masks/respirators that are designed to protect against airborne pathogens to every single person in the U.S. and its territories. Also, how would this be enforced? And what punishment for those that do not comply?”

Jane Lawrence said masks should be mandatory in public places, and she always wears one.

“This argument that wearing a mask infringes on our rights doesn't fly. We can't smoke in public businesses, enter without shirts and shoes, cry ‘fire,’ etc. We have to have auto insurance, wear seat belts, have a driver's license, not be naked in public, not drink and drive or we get a big fine or jail,” said Lawrence. “Wearing a mask for everyone's safety is the same thing. No one's ‘rights’ are being infringed.”

Tahlequah resident Alex Cheatham commented that he works for Go Ye Village.

“It is my duty to protect the residents and our guests from any harm that may come to them, so I wear a mask. It's the same at work or off work,” Cheatham said. “The sooner this is over, the better off we will all be; then we can debate what it means to be free.”

What you said

In an online poll published June 30, the Daily Press asked: As COVID numbers continue to spike, do you believe Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, or mayors of cities, should declare the wearing of facial masks mandatory? The 703 votes breakdown as follows: Yes, definitely, 58.7 percent; definitely not, 23.5 percent; probably, 10 percent; probably not, 5.3 percent; and undecided, 2.5 percent.

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