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Tulsa face mask ordinance now in effect

published in McAfee & Taft LINC Alert | July 16, 2020

With COVID-19 positive cases and area hospitalizations continuing to trend upwards, more and more Oklahoma cities and towns are considering whether to make face coverings mandatory in public settings.

Last night, Tulsa’s City Council approved a face mask ordinance, which goes into effect today for the state’s second-largest city. The ordinance follows the CDC’s recommendations that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings, particularly when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Here’s how the new ordinance applies to Tulsa businesses and employers.

Public service areas of places of public accommodation

For businesses, including retail establishments, personal services and spas, entertainment venues, food service facilities, restaurants and bars, hotels, motels and travelrelated services, professional offices and services, banks and financial services, repair facilities and motor vehicle dealerships, people are required to wear face masks at all times when they are in an area where employees interact with the public. While in office and workplace areas where social distancing may be consistently maintained and that do not include interaction with the public, face masks are not required.

Educational institutions

This includes public schools, private schools and preschools and covers any building or facility used for academic or athletic purposes. People are required to wear face masks at all times when they are in an area where institution employees interact with the public. Organized activities and practices on an institution’s playing surface are excluded from the requirement.

Public settings

These are public places where people congregate, and those locations can include offices, workplaces, houses of worship, childcare facilities, hospitals and health facilities, gymnasiums and physical fitness facilities, adult and youth sport facilities, communal outdoor spaces (e.g., sidewalks, trails and parks), food trucks, and other outdoor retail entities. For public settings, if social distancing cannot be maintained, people are required to wear face masks.

As demonstrated by large national retailers like Walmart, Sam’s Club, Krogers, Best Buy and others, businesses always have the right to set their own, more stringent face mask requirements.

Exceptions to face mask requirements

Children under the age of 18 are not required to wear face masks. Likewise, individuals who should not wear face masks due to medical or mental health conditions or developmental disabilities are exempt. Other exemptions from the face mask requirements include:

  • While eating and drinking in a restaurant
  • During dental services, medical treatment or while swimming
  • While in a vehicle, office or other private space and where others outside your household are not present
  • When in a private home
  • While engaged in outdoor exercising or walking, so long as social distancing can be maintained

The Tulsa ordinance does not set any fines for violations; however, persons violating its requirements are subject to prosecution for trespass, disturbing the peace, or disorderly conduct.

Significant controversy accompanied the enactment of the Tulsa ordinance, and employers should anticipate possible pushback or confusion from the workforce about the new ordinance. To address these concerns, employers should prepare a face mask policy that tracks the ordinance’s requirements and is tailored to their business’ particular operations and workplace.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt has called for a special city council meeting to vote on a similar face mask ordinance this week.  Other cities and towns may follow suit, so it’s important that employers stay updated on ordinances affecting their locations.

This Alert has been provided for information of clients and friends of McAfee & Taft A Professional Corporation. It does not provide legal advice, and it is not intended to create a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon the information in this Alert without seeking professional counsel.