With mandate gone, Shawnee leaders urge residents to keep wearing masks where they're required

Vicky O. Misa
The Shawnee News-Star

City leaders are urging everyone to continue to respect mask requirements still imposed by some businesses in town.

On Monday, Shawnee city commissioners approved a resolution to support the efforts of local businesses that are making the choice to continue using face coverings even though the city ended its mask mandate last week.

“City Commission of Shawnee wishes to encourage compliance with the mask policies of businesses within Shawnee,” the resolution reads. “City Commission of Shawnee wishes to encourage the citizens of Shawnee to respect the decisions and policies of our local businesses.”

Shawnee ends COVID-19 mask mandate

The city was under a mask mandate for 10 months.

The face-covering requirement was originally put in place in July and then was extended a couple times — with the last end-date set for June 30. But with COVID-19 vaccines  rolling out and being offered to most everyone at this point, as well as no spike in cases after Spring Break, some of Oklahoma's larger communities allowed their the mask-wearing edicts to expire April 30. Shawnee leaders followed suit.

More than half the commission voiced that when the ordinance was first established, it was the only option for protection at the time.

“We now have a vaccine available to those who want it,” Ward 1 City Commissioner Daniel Matthews said recently.

City commissioners Travis Flood (Ward 3), Darren Rutherford (Ward 4) and Mark Sehorn (Ward 5) agreed the availability of the vaccine was a game-changer.

Though, not everyone on the board agreed with a return to voluntary compliance.

The decision to end the ordinance was passed by a 5-2 vote. City commissioners Bob Weaver (Ward 2) and Ben Salter (Ward 6) opposed the motion.

Ward 6 City Commissioner Ben Salter said politicians are not scientists, and the city needs to follow CDC guidelines.

Ward 2 City Commissioner Bob Weaver said, though many people have taken the vaccine, masks are an extra layer of protection.

“I'm adamant that I want to be protected and I want those that I love to be protected,” he said, citing he has lost several loved ones to COVID-19.

Mayor Ed Bolt voted in favor of the measure, but said he would have liked to have seen the mandate continue a little longer — aligning with local schools and tribes that chose to continue enforcement of the requirement into May and June, respectively.

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