Tulsa Health Department inspectors can now enforce restaurants, bars, and other places to follow city ordinances when it comes to keeping people safe from COVID-19, with measures like wearing a mask and keeping people six feet apart.
The Tulsa Health Department said it is already getting new complaints about public places not complying with city ordinances. The health department will get some help from city inspectors to work on enforcement.
"We have heard from the community that our mask ordinance feels like it doesn't have teeth in it, it's not enforceable,” District 7 City Councilor Lori Decter Wright said at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
The city divides public places into two categories: public accommodations and public settings. The list is extensive, but some examples include: gyms, event centers, retail and department stores, movie theaters, offices, and places of worship.
The city said church services are within the law as long as worshippers are wearing masks and physically distant. If a place of worship is expecting 150 people or more, the city said the place of worship will need to submit a safety plan.
"So that it's really clear to everyone in the community. It's not a suggestion. It's actually required,” Decter Wright said.
Once an inspector comes out, the Tulsa Health Department said it would issue a warning and make recommendations if a business is not complying.
If complaints continue, Tulsa Health Department Food Protection Services Manager DeBrena Hilton said a citation may be issued.
From there, a business owner or representative of the place issued a citation would go before a judge and could face a $1,200 fine and or six months in jail under the city's public nuisance law.
Another part of the workload ahead for the health department: Starting December 11th, events or gatherings with 150 or more guests must provide a COVID safety plan for review and guidance. The city had previously required events and gatherings with 500 guests or more to provide a safety plan.
"I would imagine we'll have to pull in a few more individuals to assist with moving the paperwork through,” Hilton said.
Anyone can submit a complaint to the health department, and it can be done anonymously by clicking here.
For more information about what is currently in effect in the City of Tulsa, click here.