TULSA, Okla. — The Tulsa City Council voted to make changes to several city ordinances in an effort reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Previously, events with 500 or more people had to submit a safety plan to be approved by the Tulsa Health Department.
Now, any event held on or after Dec. 11 with 150 or more people must have a safety plan approved by the health department. The plan must be submitted to THD 14 calendar days before the event.
City council members also approved measures to enforce Tulsa's mask ordinance. Before Tuesday, a business could call police on a customer for trespassing if they refused to wear a mask. Now, it can be considered a health nuisance.
Councilor Kara Joy McKee said a big reason for enforcing the ordinance comes from the businesses themselves.
“That's what I'm hearing from businesses in district four is that unless you all had some enforcement, my customers come in and I say ‘I need you to wear a mask.’ And they say ‘Why? There’s no penalty if I wear a mask.’ And they want there to be some penalty," McKee said.
The council also voted to expand on Gov. Kevin Stitt's executive order from last week. Along with bars and restaurants, public accommodations and public settings must take measures to ensure social distancing between customers, clients and attendees. This means places like a spa or a hair salon must separate its clients by at least six feet.
The council also voted to require businesses to consistently make efforts to have patrons and attendees comply with face-covering requirements and to implement a sanitation protocol to protect employees and customers
According to the city of Tulsa, THD will work with entities of public accommodation to ensure compliance with city ordinances. Businesses that do not take measures to comply with face covering, social distance, separation, or event requirements can be declared a public nuisance and will be subject to abatement and penalties.
Violating the enforced ordinances could have some serious consequences. The maximum general penalty for violating a nuisance ordinance is a $1,200 fine and up to six months in prison.
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum signed these measures into law Wednesday morning. In a statement, Bynum expressed his gratitude and support in the effort to save lives.
“I want to thank leadership from so many of our surrounding communities and especially my colleagues on the Tulsa City Council for stepping up to help save lives and assist our strained healthcare system. I fully support these increased mitigation efforts for Tulsa and strongly encourage Tulsans to stay vigilant as we navigate through one of the most testing times of this pandemic. I will sign these measures into law at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, and am grateful for all the businesses and individuals who are doing their part to help mitigate the spread of this disease.”
Dr. Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa Health Department, also conveyed his appreciation regarding the City of Tulsa's efforts to combat the virus.
“I appreciate the City of Tulsa’s efforts to strengthen existing ordinances to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect our community, particularly our most vulnerable. The Tulsa Health Department remains committed to protecting the health and well-being of Tulsa County residents as well. Just as THD staff inspect local food establishments to ensure they are operating safely to prevent foodborne illnesses, our staff will now also help local businesses keep their employees and customers safe.”
Tulsa City Council Chair Ben Kimbro also thanked city and health officials for developing enhanced public safety rules.
“Many thanks to my colleagues on the Council, the Mayor and City/Health Department staff for their efforts in crafting regulations to protect our community. Local government is responsible for ensuring public safety. These ordinances were passed in the interest of saving lives; period. I ask the community to partner with the City and the Health Department to help stop the spread of this virus. We all need to work together to preserve the health of our fellow citizens, especially our most vulnerable.”
To report non-compliance with existing City ordinances regarding COVID-19 measures, CLICK HERE. 911 should only be called for life-threatening emergencies.
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