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Jenks Becomes Second Tulsa County City To Adopt Mandatory Mask Ordinance

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Youtube / City of Jenks
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Screenshot from a livestream of a meeting of the Jenks City Council on Tues., Nov. 10.

The Jenks City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to approve an ordinance mandating the wearing of masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Mayor Robert Lee, who championed the measure, cited state data showing cities without mask mandates have seen an 88% increase in infections compared to a 21% increase in cities with them.

"I can't dispute that," Lee said. "Not a silver bullet. Obviously people can still get sick wearing a mask or in a city with a mask ordinance, but that's a pretty significant difference there between cities with and without the mandates."

The council heard testimony from Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart, Oklahoma State Medical Association President Dr. George Monks, and Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Project ECHO faculty member Dr. Jennifer Clark, all of whom spoke to the safety and effectiveness of mask wearing to combat the pandemic.

Vice Mayor Donna Ogez, one of the three votes against the proposal, said she didn't believe the scientific consensus around face coverings and COVID-19.

"The masks don't work," Ogez said.

(Federal, state and local public health officials and experts are in agreement that masks do work to reduce the spread of COVID-19.)

"We're going to take away freedoms from people that, I just can't dictate that," Ogez said.

"We have taken a sworn oath of office to serve and protect the people of Jenks," said Councilor Gary Isbell, who voted in favor. "With a mask mandate, I feel that I am fulfilling that oath I swore in front of a judge."

"If you counter [that] I am infringing upon your rights, I will reply that I am making an effort to protect everyone else from you, noting that many that are COVID-positive show no symptoms," Isbell said.

"As far as personal freedom, I'll just repeat that if I have the freedom to wear a mask and everyone else chooses not to wear a mask, then my choice to wear a mask is essentially negated," Lee said.

The ordinance took effect immediately, and applies to those 10 and older with some exceptions. 

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum has long called for other Tulsa County cities to join Tulsa in introducing a mask mandate, noting the interconnectedness of the metropolitan area and the impact of infections outside of Tulsa on Tulsa's hospital system. 

"I'm so thankful that we have a leader -- a leader -- in Jenks in Mayor Lee," Bynum said at a press conference a few hours before the Jenks vote.

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