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OKLAHOMA CITY — In a joint meeting of the City Council and the Board of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD) Thursday, the Council was able to listen to presentations about COVID-19 and ask questions about the recommendations made by the Department.

After four and a half hours, the Council adjourned ahead of a return on Friday to hear and possibly vote on an ordinance requiring the use of masks in public places.

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Recommendations

The OCCHD made several suggestions for stemming the tide of the currently spiking numbers of new cases of coronavirus in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.

The first recommendation is that everybody wears masks. The transfer of infection while wearing a mask is reduced by 70%. Dr. Raskob, Chair of the Board of the OCCHD, pointed out that unlike reported widely, the mask actually protects the wearer as well as others around the wearer.

The second recommendation was to limit indoor activities to 25 people. When asked for clarification, Raskob said that those 25 people should be employing social distancing as well as wearing a mask.

Thirdly, the Department recommends urging vulnerable people to shelter at home for at least four weeks. Mayor Holt pointed out that the Governor issued a safer-at-home order for all people over 50 years of age. The majority of fatalities from coronavirus have been over 50.

Finally, the Department recommends a temporary closing of all bars and dine-in eating establishments for several weeks. Nearly 25% of recent cases have been traced to restaurant visits.

Herd Immunity

Raskob was asked what would foster the development of herd immunity to COVID-19.

His response was stark. Using what he called simple “back of the envelope” math, he said that the cost would be dear. Presuming Oklahoma City has a population of approximately 1.3 million, herd immunity would require that 60% of the population be infected at some point. That is 780,000 Oklahoma City residents.

With our current mortality rate, we would expect to see around 11,000 deaths in Oklahoma City before any meaningful “herd immunity” would be reached.

Mask Myths

Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper asked a series of questions of the Health experts regarding the usefulness of masks, based on emails he received from constituents.

When asked if the use of a mask put a person at risk for carbon dioxide toxicity, Raskob called the idea nonsense.

Cooper asked if a mask causes germs to collect near the nose and mouth, making it more likely for a person to get an infection. Raskob pointed out that it is the purpose of the mask to keep those germs collected. The mask wearer already has those germs, you see. The idea is to keep germs from spreading between people.

Finally, Cooper asked, “True or False: there is no evidence that supports healthy people wearing a mask.” Raskob replied that that is totally false. He said that the mask protects others from the wearer, as well as protecting the wearer. It reduces spread of the virus, period.

Next Meeting

While the conversation went on for four hours, the conversation isn’t finished yet. The City Council will meet on Friday at 1 p.m. in a special meeting to consider a resolution on a mask requirement. Support from the horseshoe isn’t to be presumed.

In a final statement on Thursday, Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee said that the people he’s spoken to who are against the masks don’t like them when “required” because they like “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” McAtee said a requirement is a deal-breaker for him.


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