Oklahoma city amends coronavirus mask order following physical confrontations after reopening

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A city in Oklahoma has lifted a coronavirus mask requirement following reports of physical confrontations — and a threat of violence involving a gun -- at reopened stores and restaurants.

It happened Friday in Stillwater following the reopening of certain businesses forced to close to contain the spread of the virus.

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Stillwater, Oklahoma, Mayor Will Joyce

Stillwater, Oklahoma, Mayor Will Joyce (City of Stillwater)

“In the short time beginning on May 1, 2020, that face coverings have been required for entry into stores/restaurants, store employees have been threatened with physical violence and showered with verbal abuse," City Manager Norman McNickle said. “In addition, there has been one threat of violence using a firearm."

Now Stillwater said the mask requirement applies only to the employees of those establishments. A business owner can ask his or her customers to wear a mask. The original order was in effect only a few hours.

“I knew there would be some objections, but I did not expect physical confrontations with employees and threatening phone calls to city hall,” Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce tweeted. “I hate that our businesses and their employees had to deal with abuse today, and I apologize for putting them in that position.”

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“I am not the kind of person who backs down from bullies, but I also will not send someone else to fight the battle for me,” Joyce said. “I issued a revised order this afternoon to correct this problem, and we will continue to reevaluate our approach to face coverings.

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McNickle said that many of those who objected “cite the mistaken belief the requirement is unconstitutional, and under their theory, one cannot be forced to wear a mask.”

He said no law or court supports that view.

“It is further distressing that these people, while exercising their believed rights, put others at risk,” he said. “As mentioned, there is clear medical evidence the face coverings prevent COVID-19 spread; they are recommended by both the CDC and the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The wearing of face coverings is little inconvenience to protect both the wearer and anyone with whom they have contact. And, an unprotected person who contracts the virus can infect their own loved ones and others."

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Oklahoma has reported at least 3,851 coronavirus cases and 238 deaths.