In Stillwater, Oklahoma, city officials were forced to amend an emergency proclamation that required residents to wear masks in stores and restaurants after the order was met with a threat of violence.
The proclamation, which was just issued on Thursday, required businesses to require it’s patrons to cover their faces while inside their establishment in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, within just three hours of the rule going into effect, reports began to emerge of employees being threatened with physical harm and verbal abuse. This resulted in Mayor Will Joyce amending the order to encourage the wearing of masks instead of requiring it.
“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. In addition, there has been one threat of violence using a firearm. This has occurred in three short hours and in the face of clear medical evidence that face coverings help contain the spread of Covid-19.” Stillwater City Manager Norman McNickle confirmed in a statement.
Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Oklahoma State Department of Health recommendation to wear masks in public areas due to evidence of people spreading the virus asymptomatically, McNickle explained that many residents believe that being forced to wear masks are a direct violation of their rights.
“Many of those with objections cite the mistaken belief the requirement is unconstitutional, and under their theory, one cannot be forced to wear a mask. No law or court supports this view,” said City Manager Norman McNickle in a statement. “It is further distressing that these people while exercising their believed rights, put others at risk.” He later added, “It is unfortunate and distressing that those who refuse and threaten violence are so self-absorbed as to not follow what is a simple show of respect and kindness to others.”
Regardless of the safety measure being a vital component of life during these times, McNickle says they “cannot, in clear conscience, put our local business community in harm’s way, nor can the police be everywhere.” McNickle said.