Feb. 23—The Stillwater City Council voted unanimously Monday to extend the city's ordinance requiring masks in businesses and public buildings and outdoors when physical distance can't be maintained through May 25.
None of the other provisions were changed.
Mayor Will Joyce said the extension was designed to get the city through the end of the school year, both at Oklahoma State University and at Stillwater Public Schools.
Councilor Amy Dzialowski noted that it had been an exciting day for kids in Stillwater as they got to return to their classrooms.
"The thing that really motivated me was our youth," Dzialowski said.
She said the mask mandate was necessary to help control community spread and to keep students and teachers safe and in the classroom.
Councilor John Wedlake said his decision was based strictly on public health and not, as one email he received stated, on what Oklahoma State University is doing.
Joyce said he had heard from a few people opposed to the ordinance who felt the council was not paying attention to them.
"I want to assure you, if you're opposed to this, it's not that we haven't heard you," Joyce said. "I have heard you ... I understand that folks have concerns about it ... I have spent a whole lot of time looking at it, reading about it, researching the issues, and I will tell you that I personally find that the evaluation is that masks ordinances work and that masks work in general."
He noted that mask ordinances are supported by local, state, federal and global public health authorities. As well as the City's local partners at OSU, Stillwater Public Schools, Meridian Technology Center and Stillwater Medical Center.
They're also supported by the large majority of local citizens, he said.
"I think I got four emails today about it, which is about 404 less than I got the last time we talked about this," Joyce said. "I think people seem to be either decided or just not as concerned about the mask ordinance as they used to be ... In my five years on council, it's hard to imagine anything that we've done that's got broader or wider community support than this mask ordinance ... It's not that we haven't heard there's opposition, we know that there is. I understand that and I appreciate the people who have expressed their opposition to this but if we were to go against the overwhelming support for an ordinance like this, I think we would be in dereliction of our duty as councilors to represent this community well."
Vice Mayor Pat Darlington said she thought the discussion is a timely reminder for people.
"There is a trend into complacency as immediate numbers go down ... please do not be complacent about this," she said. "This is still a critical medical situation and masks have shown to improve all of our situations."
The council will meet again at 12 p.m. Wednesday to vote on a second reading of the ordinance. An emergency clause has been attached so it will take effect immediately upon passage.