Health professionals say playing ping-pong is good for your cardiovascular system and can increase your hand-to-eye coordination. While ping-pong may be beneficial to your health, it is not an efficient way to run a city.
We are referring to the on-going ping-pong match that wearing face coverings has become. The City Council can’t seem to decide if it wants to mandate that citizens wear them or not. The council voted in July to make wearing face coverings mandatory for most residents. Those with certain health conditions or young children were exempted.
The council made its decision after listening to 16 medical professionals outline how wearing a mask is one of the more efficient ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Health professionals, not just in Lawton but in the U.S., seem to agree that wearing a mask combined with social distancing will cut down on the spread on COVID-19 and save lives.
So most Lawtonians dutifully, although some did so reluctantly, donned face coverings. Business owners posted signs on their doors notifying customers of the mask ordinance and the possible $100 fine that would accompany non-compliance. Some businesses ordered extra masks to give to customers who might not have them.
Just as Lawton residents and businesses were getting used to the mandate, the council proposed a repeal of the ordinance — the same ordinance they had approved just three weeks before.
We are just as confused as everyone else by the council’s actions. What happened to the highly valued opinion of the health professionals who spoke on July 17?
We agree with the councilman who said the council needs to avoid “playing mask ping-pong.” Lawton residents and businesses are getting whiplash from the council’s decisions. Ever since the pandemic broke out, the council has made a habit of instituting a mandate and then overturning it almost before it can take effect.
One example is the discussion on which businesses are essential. The city deemed that furniture stores were not essential, so they closed. Then the city decided they could reopen, but only if they sold appliances.
Another example is outdoor recreation — fishing to be precise. One councilmember saw two people fishing and so fishing was put on the list of unacceptable activities. That mandate was overturned shortly thereafter.
We realize city leaders are in uncharted waters. We all are. But the decisions they make should be well thought out and well reasoned.
As it turns out, the main idea behind repealing the ordinance was to set a policy on establishing an end date for easing the mask mandate. We fully support such action. The initial discussion tied Lawton’s mandate to the governor’s executive order. We agree that the council needs to set some criteria for ending the mask mandate. Doing so is reasonable and responsible. But if that is the intent, then agenda the item that way. Don’t agenda an item to repeal the mask mandate when that is not your intent.
Stop playing ping-pong with Lawton residents and Lawton businesses. Doing so leads to confusion and mistrust.