By Robert Medley
Representatives of the Canadian County Health Department urged members of the Yukon City Council Tuesday night during a study session to mandate masks.
Maggie Jackson, the county’s community liaison, spoke to council members about why it is important to set a mask policy for those in public. She attended the study session with Heather Ward, Canadian County Health Department health educator.
Jackson gave council members data on current cases of COVID-19 in Yukon. There have been two deaths reported in the city.
Jackson said people are less likely to spread the coronavirus wearing masks, and she supports mandates.
“If you have symptoms and you are coughing, then you are spreading it,” Jackson said.
Jackson said she not only encourages people to wear masks, but thinks that if a city has a policy or ordinance in place it will be more effective.
“We want every citizen to do their part to wear a mask and to protect not only vulnerable citizens who have health conditions but also people who are vulnerable economically,” Jackson said. “Wearing a mask can help a business stay open.”
Yukon’s current emergency proclamation declares restaurant food servers and bar employees must wear masks. Mayor Shelli Selby said she encourages masks.
Yukon’s City Attorney Gary Miller said the mayor of Yukon has the authority to make mandates in a state of emergency as has been declared in Oklahoma by Gov. Stitt.
“There is a state statute that very clearly says when an emergency has been declared, the mayor can take those necessary steps to protect the health and welfare of its citizens,” Miller said. “There is no question the mayor has the authority to do that.”
“In 1968 in Yukon, the city council became concerned about emergencies and they passed Ordinance 375 that is still in effect today, by the way, that authorizes the mayor to take those steps,” Miller said.
City Councilwoman Donna Yanda, Ward III, commented on the pandemic and safety precautions.
“There is no perfect answer, no solution, no one has the answer to how we remedy this. I don’t want to force anyone to wear a mask, but I think we all need to be aware of our surroundings and be mindful of our families and those people we are around,” Yanda said.
City Councilman Rick Cacini, Ward I, said, “How do you mandate something? And how are you going to enforce it? That’s my problem, enforcement is going to be a problem.”
Councilman Aric Gilliland, Ward IV, said he does not think the mayor should have the authority to make any mandate without a vote of the council.
“I think that we have evidence and plenty of it that shows without a mandate, businesses are trying to be responsible,” Gilliland said.
Under the current emergency declaration, anyone who violates the proclamation requiring restaurant and bar employees to wear masks can face a municipal fine. Police Chief John Corn told council members no citations have been written to any businesses during the pandemic, and officers have responded to only a handful of complaints.
Jackson said the Canadian County Health Department continues to offer drive-thru testing at offices in Yukon and El Reno.
“Our recommendation is that wearing masks in our community will help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Jackson said.
Yukon has had 421 cases of COVID-19 including two deaths and 347 people who have recovered, the 11th most cases of cities in the state, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported.
There were 8 people being treated at INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital Tuesday and two people who are suspected of having the coronavirus hospitalized, said hospital spokeswoman Brooke Cayot.
In Canadian County, 786 cases have been reported with four deaths and 638 people recovering.
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