ENID, Okla. — Enid will not adopt the state’s COVID-19 alert system that would have mandated face coverings when necessary social distancing would not be possible.

City commissioners voted down the proposed emergency declaration 4-3 in a meeting Tuesday night held in Stride Bank Center’s Grand Ballroom.

Ward 2 Commissioner Derwin Nor­wood, who voted against a previous mask mandate proposal, voted this time in favor of the declaration, as did commissioners Ben Ezzell, of Ward 3, and Jonathan Waddell, of Ward 4.

Many of the more than 200 people who attended wore red shirts to show their opposition to the mandate, much like last month’s similarly contentious commission meeting that saw a mask mandate voted down 5-2, and attendees left to stand and spill out into the hallways of city hall.

More than 30 people addressed the commission Tuesday, many claiming an infringement of freedoms by elected officials.

The proposed declaration included precautions, guidelines and violations at each color-coded phase for individuals, businesses and those at high risk of infection, much of it language lifted from Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The state system classifies counties under four colored phases as the number of new daily cases per 100,000 increases. Garfield County, along with 16 other counties, was upgraded to the third phase — “orange” or moderate-risk — on Thursday. It has 19.23 cases per 100,000, according to OSDH.

“Governments ... derive their power from the consent of the governed. Your seat, your title and your authority are grants of privilege from we the people,” Emily Hladik told commissioners, to applause from the largely red-wearing audience. “We do not consent to a mask mandate.”

J.J. Jackson said for two years, he and his fiancée had been planning their wedding in the event center’s 9,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom, with 114 guests invited. Under the proposal, only 50 would be allowed to attend.

“It is our wedding; it’s not the government’s,” Jackson said.

After several others also said the declaration would infringe on their right to attend church, Waddell, who motioned to accept the declaration, also proposed an amendment increasing the maximum permitted gathering size from 50 to 150.

Aimee Martinez, who also spoke at last month’s meeting, said the declaration was about “helping others” rather than people she’s seen in public acting like “5-year-olds not getting their way” over not wearing a mask.

“The is not about getting your way. It is about caring about others. Please do the right thing. Wear masks when social distancing is not possible. Do it thinking about someone else who you may not know is immunocompromised,” said the 14-year-old, who said previously she has type 1 diabetes. “You never know who is next to you.”

Ezzell, who drafted the proposal with City Attorney Carol Lahman, said this proposal would not have been solely up to police officers to enforce. Code enforcement officers were to be removed as enforcers with another amendment.

“We want everyone to be safe, and this is a set of options that is largely based on the honor system,” he said.

Possible violators who didn’t comply with social distancing or wearing a face covering would first be asked to, then offered a mask, then cited $9 for a first or second offense.

Ezzell currently is facing a recall petition, which is being processed by the city clerk after a group collected more than 200 signatures last weekend. A widely circulated email detailing Ezzell’s plan also included him criticizing Police Chief Brian O’Rourke for his unwillingness for officers to enforce the previous mask mandate proposal.

In Enid, 356 total cases, the 16th-highest of Oklahoma cities, have been reported, 84 of which still are active. Six people have died, though two have not yet been reported through OSDH data, but instead by local hospitals.

Active cases statewide are on a two-week decline since mid-July by date of onset symptoms.

When commissioners voted against the previous mandate, Garfield County had 41 active cases out 138 total, and two people had died.

Enid Public Schools’ Board of Education last week voted to adopt the state board of education’s recommended re-entry plan, which also was based off the Health Department’s alert system but includes two orange sub-phases. That plan, as Garfield County is now in orange level, requires masks for everyone in school buildings, including in classrooms.

A 2008 Dutch medical study found that N-95 respirators, surgical masks and cloth masks all would reduce exposure to airborne influenza virus, in that order of effectiveness. And a 2013 study by the National Institute of Health determined any face coverings “would be better than no protection” from preventing air droplet transmission.

Both the CDC and the World Health Organization recommend wearing cloth face coverings to reduce exposure to COVID-19.

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Ewald is copy editor and city reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @oualexewald.

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Alexander? Send an email to aewald@enidnews.com.

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Writer, doer and overthinker. OU grad, California native with Oklahoma heritage.

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