The Cherokee City Council Special Meeting on December 23, 2020 was called to order at 10:00 am. Mayor Karen Hawkins led the Pledge of Allegiance and the invocation. Lance Miller, Jeremy Hickman, David Collins and Karen Hawkins answered the roll. Adrienne Wessels was absent.
The Council discussed and considered possible action on a Proclamation declaring it an emergency in response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic; this proclamation, if approved, would allow the Council to authorize the Mayor to act per 11 O.S. Section 22-120.
City Manager Mike Jones explained that a report in the New York Times named Alfalfa County as #1 in the country for active COVID-19 cases per population. Although he is not confident of the numbers presented in the report, Mr. Jones acknowledged that COVID-19 cases in Alfalfa County and the City of Cherokee are increasing rapidly. He stated that it is the responsibility of government officials to respond to situations such as this, so as to minimize the spread of infection. On Monday, December 21, Alfalfa County had 34 active cases of COVID-19 and one death resulting from the virus; the numbers have skyrocketed in the last week. Mr. Jones also stated that this is not a blanket mask mandate. This proclamation gives local law enforcement the authority to officially respond to businesses who have mandated masks, when patrons are not complying with the business’s mandate.
Each separate business may either mandate the use of masks or strongly recommend the use of masks. When a business has mandated the use of masks, all patrons must comply with that mandate. Under this proclamation, when a patron refuses to comply, the business can request that law enforcement assist them to ensure compliance. Should a patron refuse to either leave the premises or put on a mask, law enforcement can arrest the patron for trespassing, disturbing the peace, or disorderly conduct.
Collins commented that he does not think this proclamation is necessary; he stated that law enforcement already has the power to act on behalf of business owners. Chief of Police Ryan McNeil stated that the City of Enid has issued a proclamation like this one, and there have been no arrests and no real trouble.
Miller commented that a proclamation such as this shows that local government is taking action to control or reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and would be a good message to send.
Collins said that he had spoken to fifteen residents regarding the proposed proclamation, and that twelve responded favorably, while three were against it. He also mentioned that the police in Enid have been in the parking lot at Wal-Mart, enforcing the mask mandate as issued by Wal-Mart; Mr. Collins stated that people were upset about that.
Miller made a motion to approve the proclamation, and Hickman seconded the motion. City Clerk Amber Wilhite took a roll-call vote; Miller, Hickman and Hawkins voted yes and Collins voted no. The proclamation was approved.
Miller made a motion to adjourn, and Hickman seconded the motion. The meeting was adjourned at 10:10 am.