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Reactions remain mixed on Ardmore's mask mandate

Drew Butler
News alert

Last Thursday the Ardmore City Commission passed a resolution mandating masks or face coverings to be worn at all indoor public spaces. The mandate is intended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and it applies to all citizens ages five and older. Individual businesses can choose whether or not to enforce the mask requirement, and if a customer refuses to wear a mask when asked, the police can then step in to get the person to leave.

The public reaction to the mandate has been mixed with some in favor of the resolution and others who believe it to be a violation of personal rights. City Manager JD Spohn said he and the commissioners have received numerous phone calls and emails from the public expressing both sides of the argument.

“We’ve been getting lots of calls from people who are upset about the mandate and are angry about businesses enforcing the resolution,” Spohn said. “Then we have other calls from people upset that businesses are not enforcing it.”

He urged any business not currently requiring face coverings to reconsider.

“We have some that are really cooperating in enforcing this, and then we have others that for whatever reason don’t feel the need to,” Spohn said. “For this to work, we have to have their cooperation because it’s their decision to require it for their place of business. This is important for the health and safety of our community, and it’s disappointing that some aren’t cooperating.”

Spohn said he has personally spoken with several business owners who are asking customers to wear masks, and they told him for the most part people will wear a mask if asked.

“Most of them say people are cooperating and understanding, and even those that don’t want to wear a mask will if you give them one,” he said. “If they refuse but don’t leave, that’s when businesses can call the police. If the police ask them to leave and they still refuse, then that person is going to pay a $310 trespassing fine.”

According to Ardmore Deputy Police Chief Kevin Norris, no business has needed police intervention due to a customer refusing to wear a mask. As of Thursday afternoon, only two citizens had contacted the police with any issue regarding masks. Those phone calls were to report two separate businesses for not requiring customers to wear masks. No officers were dispatched and the callers were instructed to contact store management.

“This was not put into place to punish people, and we’re not just making a policy because we can,” Spohn said. “Nobody wanted to do this but we have to. We’d be remiss in our duties if we didn’t address issues that threaten our community. When our health professionals and large businesses and industries ask us for help because they can’t keep people at work and our hospital is filling up, we have a duty to take action.”