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Bynum Says Mask Ordinance Expiration Makes Sense, But Asks For Continued Caution

Chris Polansky
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum at a press conference at City Hall on Thursday, April 15.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said Thursday he believes allowing the city's COVID-19 mandatory mask ordinance to expire at the end of this month, as is currently planned, is the right move.

"Our hospital capacity is not in danger any longer," Bynum told reporters Thursday morning at an in-person press conference at City Hall, the first held that way in months, since COVID-19 briefings were moved all-virtual due to the severe surge in infections this winter.

"This is why the Tulsa Health Department -- which, by the way, has not been accused at any point of this pandemic of being lackadaisical in their warnings to the citizens of Tulsa," Bynum said, chuckling, "why they are recommending that it is okay for us to allow the mask order to sunset on April 30th, and it's why I agree with them." 

The city will continue to require masks be worn by employees at food service establishments, and organizers of large events will continue to be required to submit a COVID safety plan to THD.

Bynum and THD Director Dr. Bruce Dart said the vaccines have been both a tremendous boon to the city and county's infection rate, and something of a political unifier.

"I was excited to get mine. You see Gov. Stitt out there getting his, encouraging people to get it. You see folks at the City of Broken Arrow, with whom we've had some disagreements -- they're doing everything they can to make vaccinations as accessible to the citizens of Broken Arrow as possible," Bynum said.

"So, while we've had at different points of this pandemic some disagreements on different steps that have been taken, right now I think that there's broad support for people getting this vaccine so that we can stomp out this virus and get this awful pandemic behind us," the mayor said.

Bynum still urged prudence.

"This pandemic is not over. ... We should all, every one of us, continue to be smart in how we go about our daily lives. The absence of a mask order does not mean people should start burning your masks," Bynum said. "Tulsans should continue to proceed with caution."

The mayor said he disagreed with a suggestion put forward by Tulsa City Councilor Kara Joy McKee, to institute a "trigger" to reinstate the mandate should trends begin to worsen.

"I think one of the reasons that we could justify to the citizens of Tulsa" that a mask mandate was necessary last year, Bynum said, "was because you had [CEO] Jake Henry standing right here and saying that we need this to protect Saint Francis Health System. You had the leadership at St. John saying the same thing. You had the leadership from Hillcrest saying the same thing. You had the leadership from OSU saying the same thing.

"I think that's really important, and coming up with an arbitrary number that would make something automatically kick in -- I worry about that not allowing for community-wide buy-in for the decision," said Bynum, who said he would not hesitate to reinstate the mandate should it become necessary.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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