• July 7, 2020

Council votes against mandate - Odessa American: News

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Council votes against mandate

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Posted: Monday, June 29, 2020 11:57 am

Odessa Mayor David Turner turned over the decision of a mask mandate to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to city council on Monday who opposed the order in a 5-1 vote.

Turner said last week that although he could authorize the order himself, he wanted to involve city council and speak to multiple Texas mayors about what they are doing about mask mandates in their cities including Midland Mayor Patrick Payton who said last week that he would also not be issuing a mask mandate.

The emergency meeting was held at Floyd Gwin Park’s PAL Gym where multiple people spoke against a mask mandate and said that it would take away their civil liberties including one woman who said that she wouldn’t wear a mask regardless of the decision.

Odessa Regional Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rohith Saravanan spoke in front of council in favor of the mask mandate and said that everyone has to take the social responsibility to stop the spread of the virus and that a mask mandate can be put place while citizens keep their civil liberties. He said he was not there to give his opinion, but that he was speaking as a scientist and that he wanted people to think about the asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19.

Saravanan took criticism for supporting masks from multiple people attending the meeting who said that a mandate wasn’t a choice and that it was disturbing their freedoms.

One man stood at a podium unmasked and said that he was awaiting results for his COVID-19 test and said that the virus wasn’t as serious as, “the media made it out to be.”

Medical Center Hospital Board member Ben Quiroz said that he also did not support a mask mandate.

Multiple people told council that they would make sure that those on council in favor of the mandate would be voted out of office.

At-Large city councilwoman Peggy Dean said she would not support a mandate because it couldn’t be enforced. District 1 councilman Rev. Michael K. Shelton said he didn’t support the mandate and that he didn’t want to anger citizens of Odessa by restricting freedoms.

District 2 councilman Dewey Bryant spoke on responsibility and freedom and that he also didn’t support a mandate.

District 5 Mari Willis said that she serves from faith instead of fear and said that, “If anybody knows about rights, if anybody knows about freedoms…as an African American woman, let me tell you I know about them,” at which point she was interrupted by a man who yelled, “Don’t bring race into it.”

She responded saying that “It is who I am,” adding that she believes Odessa is strong and that she is a Christian and that she supports the mandate as a former educator and that she cared about the community’s safety as if they were her own family.

District 4 Councilman Tom Sprawls said, “shame on you” to those criticizing the mayor and the council for considering different ways to protect the community. He voted against the mandate because he said he didn’t believe in forcing people to wear a mask but again said, “shame on you,” to those who don’t decide to wear a mask out to protect others.

District 3 councilwoman Detra White said she didn’t support the mandate and that she was disappointed with the way people of Odessa addressed council which included people using profanity and, “threatening” council members and the mayor while her grandson was present.

Mayor David Turner said that he has received death threats for considering a mask mandate and spoke on the rise in cases and that the unemployment in Odessa was the third highest in the state.

“Whether we like it or we think it’s a communist plot or whatever, we have to address it,” he said adding that if they don’t take COVID-19 more seriously the economy will suffer more.

Council voted against the mandate in a 5-1 vote

Turner began considering the mandate as coronavirus cases surged in Odessa and throughout Texas and local medical officials urged him to make a statement by authorizing a mask order which they said would not only help slow the spread of the virus, but that the order would also help keep local hospitals from potentially having to enter their surge plans.

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