The City Council narrowly failed to pass an ordinance to reinstate a mask mandate as an incentive to increase vaccinations.
The 4-5 vote followed a contentious and raucous debate led by cityans against vaccines.
Officials have said that the vast majority of those being hospitalized and dying from the virus have not been vaccinated.
A 7-vote threshold was needed to pass the ordinance.
City Councilman James Cooper (Ward 2) proposed that the ordinance be amended to allow for a simple majority vote.
Before that vote failed, the council received an update on COVID-19 transmission, vaccinations and hospital occupancy rates from the Oklahoma County Department of Health.
Transmissions are high, new hospital admissions are up 60 percent from the beginning of August and ICU bed occupancy has increased by 30 percent.
COVID-19 numbers show September is “not going to be pleasant for any of us in Oklahoma City, vaccinated and unvaccinated, if we don’t accept some harsh realities,” Mayor David Holt said after the council meeting.
Early signs of a plateau of pandemic cases were replaced over the last few days with a new surge on top of the surge we were already experiencing, Mayor Holt said.
The metropoliotan area is now averaging about 800 new COVID-19 cases a day, nearing its pandemic-high of 1,000.
“We’re on the worst-case scenario,” said Phil Maytubby, chief operating officer of the health department, said when discussing the strain on hospital infrastructure during the council meeting.
“Here in recent times, nothing comes close to COVID.”
City Councilman Bradley Carter (Ward 1) then sparred with Mr. Maytubby, challenging him on the effectiveness of vaccines and masks.
Many in the crowd cheered the exchange and some jeered as Mr. Maytubby discussed the effectiveness of vaccinations.
“Everyone gets to speak in this room,” Mayor Holt shouted,” gaveling for order.
“I’m reclaiming my time,” City Councilwoman Nikki Nice (Ward 7) shouted at one point, as she tried dealing with the raucous crowd, condemning a comment that compared mask mandates to Jim Crow Era laws.
The mandate resolution had been proposed by Council Members Nice, Cooper and JoBeth Hammon (Ward 6).