The sixth time was the charm for the Muskogee City Council to pass a mandatory mask ordinance to combat the dramatic rise in COVID-19 infections. After five failed votes in recent weeks, the measure passed Monday night 5-3.
The vote came the same day that Muskogee County declared a state of emergency due to a sharp increase in coronavirus infections and the possibility of overwhelming the already strained hospital system even further.
At the city council meeting Monday, a group of health care providers attended en masse to stress how important it was that the mandate pass.
"COVID fatigue is real, and it's not just the disease. It's the act of fighting it, and all of these people from our local hospitals came out today because we're pissed off. We're sick of it," said Dr. Andrew Olshen, a VA physician who said he lives in Muskogee but works in Tulsa and does all his shopping in Tulsa due to the city's mask mandate.
"When we see people who don't seem to give a crap about us out in the community, you know how it makes us feel? It makes health care workers feel like maybe we shouldn't be doing this anymore," Olshen said.
In Sand Springs, the council unanimously approved their mask ordinance, which takes effect Friday.
"The Sand Springs City Council took action during a special meeting Monday evening to combat the recent dramatic rise in COVID-19 pandemic statistics in the Sand Springs community," the city said in a news release.
"According to a study in an October 'Oklahoma Weekly Epidemiology Report', COVID-19 cases in areas without a facial covering requirement grew by 88%, whereas areas adopting a facial covering requirement saw a much slower spread of only 21%," the release said, referring to an Oklahoma State Department of Health report.
The votes came the same night the Broken Arrow City Council voted 1-4 to reject a non-binding resolution that would have "strongly encouraged" residents to wear masks.
Sand Springs and Muskogee join cities including Jenks, Glenpool and Sapulpa that have followed Tulsa's lead in adopting mask ordinances long called for by Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and the Tulsa Health Department to help mitigate the spread and keep area citizens out of hospitals.