The Moore City Council opted not to vote to prepare a city-wide mandatory mask ordinance during Thursday's special session.

The council met Thursday to receive public comments from several local entities and residents regarding a potential mask mandate for the City of Moore. The meeting gave the city council the opportunity to vote on adding a mandatory mask ordinance to the Aug. 3 meeting agenda.

At the end of the meeting, the city council chose not to vote on adding a mask ordinance to the Aug. 3 agenda. Melissa Hunt, Ward 2 council member, said the city has no plans to mandate a mask ordinance.

"We're not going to mandate it, but a lot of businesses have required it, so we just ask that people be respectful of the businesses that have required or choose to shop elsewhere," Hunt said. "I'm not in favor of mandating it, but I am in favor of businesses being able to make that choice."

Several people spoke at Thursday's meeting, including a spokesperson for the Cleveland County Health Department who outlined the COVID-19 situation for the city. There are 430 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Moore and 60 active cases as of Thursday, according to the Health Department.

Assistant city attorney Brian Miller gave a report during the meeting outlining surrounding cities that have mandated masks in public settings, including Oklahoma City and Norman. Miller also discussed other cities that have voted no on instituting city-wide mask mandates, including Enid and Muskogee.

Miller said it seems that cities that have voted no on mask mandates have cited potential legal and enforcement issues.

"The biggest problem I have seen from reading cities that have voted no is that it seems that they have enforcement issues. That was the biggest thing they thought about...they didn't know how to enforce this," Miller said. "Without effective enforcement, it's not a mandate...if the council (chose to pass a mask mandate), we would need to write an ordinance that is narrowly construed and something that gives the ability for police to enforce this."

Moore Police Chief Todd Gibson spoke on how MPD has adjusted its protocol amid the pandemic, and outlined how the department would enforce a potential mask mandate. Gibson said the MPD's ultimate priority would be public education about the ordinance and its requirements before considering warnings and enforcement.

"Currently in Moore, we appreciate and are thankful for a very strong relationship with our community and the people we serve," Gibson said. "When we examine the issue of enforcing a proclamation such as this, it can quickly become very complex."

More than 10 residents spoke when the meeting opened for public comments, with most residents speaking in opposition to a potential mask mandate. Most residents questioned the effectiveness of masks in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and also cited concerns regarding enforcement and negative impacts on businesses.

After public comments, there was no motion from the consider to vote on adding a mask ordinance to the Aug. 3 meeting.

In a closing statement, Mayor Glenn Lewis encouraged residents to wear a mask and practice social distancing in public spaces.

"Stay aware of the situation around you. Don't gather in big crowds and social distance," Lewis said. "I always tell people to stay seven feet apart because you can't measure six."

Jesse Crittenden

366-3540

Follow me @jcritt31

jcrittenden@normantranscript.com.

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