Flood, Matthews: It's time to assess mask mandate

Vicky O. Misa
The Shawnee News-Star
Due to rising numbers in COVID-19 cases, Mayor Ed Bolt signs an ordinance requiring face coverings to be worn in places open to the public.

Though it wasn't on Monday's agenda, the city's mask mandate ordinance was on the minds of a couple Shawnee city commissioners.

Toward the end of the meeting, during commissioner comments, Ward 3 City Commissioner Travis Flood and Ward 1 City Commissioner Daniel Matthews both suggested it was time to have a discussion on whether to rescind the local order that — for now — is in effect through June 30.

Flood said he has encountered many questions from residents asking how the city plans to move forward through the rest of the school year and into the summer months.

“I know it's not anything we all want to talk about, but I think it might be time for us to start having discussions about that, and what it might look like,” he said.

Matthews agreed.

“If you remember back when we reauthorized the ordinance requiring masks, I raised my opposition,” he said.”I actually wanted to go to March 31; I thought June 30 was too long.”

He said he understands everyone will have different criteria to make that decision.

“Hopefully we're all having our own conversations with people around town,” he said. “I'm certainly having some.”

He said according to health officials he has spoken to, in the last week there have been no more than five people in the hospital due to COVID-19 and currently there are zero.

“When the new COVID update came out (Monday) there are 100 active cases in our community, which is the most we've been in a while,” he said. “And our positivity rate is now below five percent, which puts us in the green zone.”

He doesn't pretend to know how everyone will vote on the issue, it's none of his business, he said, other than the board promised it would reconsider when the time was appropriate.

“I hope it could at least be on the next agenda,” he said.

Mayor Ed Bolt followed up, saying his personal decision would be based on what medical experts have to say about it.

“It's a conversation I'm sure we can have soon,” he said.

A masks-required sign in Shawnee reminds residents of the local COVID-19-related ordinance.

Shawnee residents have been under the mask ordinance since it was originally put in place in July and was extended in September, and again in November.

The mandate has been a topic of contention everywhere — including locally. Many Shawnee residents voiced concerns or direct opposition to the measure each time the item was being voted on. There were also some who spoke in favor of the pandemic precaution.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), 63 Shawnee residents, as well as 23 rural Pottawatomie County residents, have reportedly died from COVID-19, so far.

Watch for updates.

For story ideas, questions or concerns, reporter Vicky O. Misa can be reached at vicky.misa@news-star.com.