Measures requiring people to wear face coverings inside stores and restaurants to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Stillwater, Okla., were lifted by officials Friday after employees from these businesses said that they experienced threats of violence.
Independent Mayor Will Joyce walked back an emergency order put in place until May 31, requiring the public to wear masks. The measure was amended the same day it was activated on Friday night, according to a news release published by the city.
As it stands, the changed proclamation requires employees in retail establishments to wear masks, but face coverings are optional for customers. However, the proclamation still strongly advises that people wear masks for their own protection and the protection of others against the coronavirus.
Anger and frustration about the order reportedly erupted within three hours of its enactment, with opponents verbally abusing employees, threatening physical violence, and, in one instance, threatening gun violence.
City Manager Norman McNickle said that people who objected to mask requirements claimed that the measure was unconstitutional, according to Stillwater News Press.
"The City of Stillwater has attempted to keep people safe by the simple requirement to wear a face covering to protect others," McNickle said. "It is unfortunate and distressing that those who refuse and threaten violence are so self-absorbed as to not follow what is a simple show of respect and kindness to others."
McNickle said that despite backtracking the measure, he still encourages stores to ask customers to wear masks before entering businesses, adding that more specific businesses can choose to apply the mask-wearing requirements.
The news comes as local leaders throughout the county are facing pushback and armed protests to stay-at-home orders and other public health precautions put in place amid the pandemic. Like the protestors in Oklahoma, many people claim these orders are unconstitutional and impinge on their freedoms.