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Oklahoma City Council rejects proposed mask mandate

August 31, 2021 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Council rejected a proposal Tuesday that would have reinstituted a mask mandate.

The council voted after hearing from dozens of residents in a packed room, most of whom opposed the mandate. One compared a mask requirement to Jim Crow laws.

“You couldn’t eat at a restaurant because you’re Black. You’re taking somebody’s individual freedom away” by mandating that people wear masks, James Rainey said.

Councilmember James Cooper, who offered the measure, said masking would slow the spread of the coronavirus until COVID-19 vaccinations reach herd immunity of 80%. The vaccination rate in the county is currently 60.3%, according to Phil Maytubby, Oklahoma City-County Health Department chief operating officer.

The vote comes after the Tulsa City Council also rejected a mask mandate as the delta variant of the coronavirus sweeps the state, flooding hospitals with COVID-19 cases. The four major hospitals in Oklahoma City have said they have no ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

The state health department on Tuesday reported 1,719 new virus cases and a seven-day average of 2,796 new cases daily, up from 2,213 on Aug. 15.

The department reported a three-day average of 1,539 hospitalizations, with 434 in ICU statewide.