How Mask Mandates Were Beaten Down in Rural Oklahoma
pril 6th, at the last in-person meeting of the Guthrie city council, the mayor, Steve Gentling, wore a purple face mask and sat six feet from each of his colleagues. The dais where council members typically sit elbow to elbow was half full, to allow for proper social distancing; the lectern where citizens normally air their grievances in five-minute monologues stood empty. Guthrie, Oklahoma, a town thirty miles north of Oklahoma City, was on the cusp of locking down in response to the coronavirus
, along with the rest of the United States, but the council had not yet codified how the confusing new nomenclature—“stay at home” vs. “shelter in place”—would be enforced on local streets. The city manager, speaking through an orange mask, presented a proposal that he said was inspired by an effective virus response in Central Europe: mandatory face masks for all residents while in public, with a fine of as much as five hundred dollars for noncompliance. The council, which is nonpartisan, passed the measure unanimously. Guthrie, a community of roughly eleven thousand people, became one of the first places in the U.S. to require face masks in public.
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