As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the state, Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis said the city currently has no plans to adopt a mandatory mask ordinance for residents.
Moore’s decision to not implement a mask ordinance comes as Oklahoma City Metro areas discuss ways to manage the surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
Norman’s city council passed a mask ordinance during Tuesday's meeting that requires the public to wear face coverings or masks while inside businesses, such as retail and grocery stores, hotels, hair salons and banks. Last week, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt announced a proclamation that required restaurant and bar employees to wear masks at all times for two weeks.
Lewis said he has been monitoring the decisions of the Norman City Council and other cities across the state in managing COVID-19. Lewis said he asked Moore City Council members during Monday’s meeting about adopting a mandatory mask ordinance, but they agreed there is no plan to do so at this time.
“I think it’s up to the governor to make a decision like that,” Lewis said. “We don’t want the government saying you have to wear certain clothes or wear your hair a certain way. We just don’t have any way to enforce this, and I don’t think Norman does either.”
Moore currently has the 11th highest COVID-19 case total of any city in the state, with 278 confirmed cases and nine deaths as of Thursday morning, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. There are 624 total cases of COVID-19 in Norman and 23 deaths, according to the department.
The City of Moore issued a stay-at-home order in March in response to COVID-19, but rescinded it after Gov. Kevin Stitt called for local governments to reopen their economy in late April. Lewis said while the city is concerned with rising COVID-19 numbers in the state, there are no plans to issue another stay-at-home order.
“The (COVID-19) numbers concern everyone, but the last thing we need is a work stoppage,” Lewis said. “When you do something like a mask ordinance or a stay-at-home order, 50 percent of people get mad that you didn’t do it quick enough and 50 percent get mad that you did it at all. We live in strange times.”
Lewis said he knows Norman’s mask ordinance may have an impact on Moore. Several Norman residents that responded to the Norman's Healthier at Home survey last month said they would rather travel to Moore to spend their money if Norman’s mask ordinance passed, according to survey data from the city.
Lewis said more than 50 Norman residents emailed him following Norman’s city council meeting Tuesday and told him they would be shopping in Moore due to the mandatory mask ordinance.
“Those residents, for the most part, said they were going to shop here and that they don’t like the politics in Norman,” Lewis said. “Of course all of the metro areas compete against each other for business, but we’re not trying to pull Norman residents over here for shopping. I (don’t want) to get involved in Norman politics.”
Annahlyse Meyer, the City of Norman’s chief communication officer, said the city has received comments from residents indicating they would prefer to shop elsewhere due to the mask ordinance. She said they have also received comments that residents would prefer to shop in Norman because they feel safer.
Meyer said recent sales tax data shows that customers are continuing to use Norman businesses. According to data from the Oklahoma Tax Commission, the general purpose sales tax remittance in Norman for the month of July — reflecting sales in May — was about $4.85 million, indicating an increase of 5.14% from July 2019.
However, Meyer said it’s too soon to speculate on the impact — positive or negative — that the mask ordinance will have on Norman businesses.
“We know there’s sentiment on both sides,” Meyer said. “Commenters on our live streams and on the ward pages indicate there are residents on both sides. Regardless, the mask ordinance was passed by the city council on Tuesday, and we are working to help businesses and residents during this transition.”
Lewis said despite having no plans to adopt a mask ordinance, he encourages residents to stay home and wear masks if they have to leave their house. He also said the city is monitoring COVID-19 data and will discuss adopting a mandatory mask ordinance if it becomes necessary.
“I know it’s uncomfortable, but if you’re going to go out, wear a mask,” Lewis said.