Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt announced a proclamation Wednesday that will institute new restrictions for bars and restaurants.
The new proclamation, which will go into effect on Friday morning, will require all employees of bars and restaurants to wear masks at all times. The proclamation will also require all bars to limit capacity to 50 percent, and require all venues with theatre style seating to return to staggered seating.
The proclamation will remain in effect for two weeks, Holt said.
Holt said the new restrictions are due to two sources of COVID-19 outbreaks that are impacting restaurant and bar workers and bar patrons. Last week, Holt and the OKC County Health Department listed seven locations where people are more often exposed to the virus, including weddings, funerals, house parties, churches, gyms, small gatherings and bars.
“We no longer have to speculate about what activities might spread the virus,” Holt said on Wednesday. “We now have thousands of cases we can look at and know exactly how the virus is spreading."
Holt said the restrictions can and will be enforced if the city receives reports of systemic violations from establishments. Holt also said private businesses have the right to require customers wear masks, and the city encourages them to do so.
Holt said recent data shows deaths have not increased in any significant way in OKC, but new case numbers and positive test percentages are now increasing, particularly in younger people, after initially going into a mild decline for a full week.
“Escalation that we feared a week ago hasn’t materialized, but neither has the depth of decline that would cause us to breathe a sigh of relief,” Holt said. “We are stuck at an elevated level that is manageable but puts us on the edge of an unmanageable position.
Discussions regarding mandatory mask requirements have come up more and more in recent weeks as COVID-19 case numbers continue to spike across the state.
The Norman City Council heard discussion on a possible mandatory mask policy during Tuesday's meeting, and Mayor Breea Clark directed staff to draft an ordinance for the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 7. The University of Oklahoma has already issued a mandatory mask policy for all students, employees and visitors.
Holt said research has shown wearing masks is an effective way of slowing the spread of the virus, and said he encourages residents to continue wearing masks in public.
“The most dangerous activity (in spreading the virus) is simply by having a conversation with another person, where tiny droplets of saliva are spread,” Holt said. “You can’t see it with the naked eye, but when you’re talking to someone else and not wearing a mask, you are spreading the virus or vice versa through these tiny droplets.
“I am asking all residents to wear a mask when you are in an indoor public place and less than six feet away from people not of your household and family. I recognize there’s no practical way to enforce this request, but I hope by making it publicly, I will hope to establish the societal expectation that we expect our friends and neighbors to do the right thing."
Dr. Patrick McGough, executive director of the Oklahoma City County Health Department, said COVID-19 cases are doubling in OKC compared to previous weeks, increasing the need for residents to wear masks.
“Wearing a mask is a statement that you value not only the lives of others, but that you value your own," McGough said. "It is not a political statement."
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