Oklahoma mayor alleges threats by state lawmaker over masks

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The mayor of an Oklahoma City suburb alleges she was threatened by a state lawmaker because of a mandate she issued requiring bar and restaurant workers to wear masks in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Republican State Rep. Jay Steagall on Tuesday denied threatening Yukon Mayor Shelli Selby and says he was talking to her about his constituents’ concerns.

“I've never threatened anyone,” Steagall told The Associated Press. “I've tried to take constituent concerns to her.”

No court records show that charges have been filed.

Selby, whose voter registration records indicate she is a Republican, issued the proclamation last month.

In a police report, Shelby complained that on July 29 "she was being harassed and intimidated for political reasons” by Steagall. She said she sent a letter of complaint about Steagall to state House Speaker Charles McCall.

A spokesperson for McCall did not immediately return a phone call for comment on Tuesday, but told The Oklahoman on Monday that the speaker had no comment on the letter.

Steagall said he believes private business owners should decide whether to require employees and customers to wear masks and maintains that a mask ordinance can only legally be approved by the City Council, not by Selby, a city councilor elected mayor of Yukon by fellow council members in May.

The Oklahoman reports that Selby said Steagall has harassed and threatened her because of her decision to institute the mask requirement.

Selby said in an email to The Associated Press that she could not discuss the matter on Tuesday because she was working, but could talk on Wednesday.

HOMECOMING CANCELED

The Oklahoma State University Alumni has canceled its plans for festivities surrounding OSU's Oct. 31 homecoming football game against Big 12 foe Texas Tech because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Alumni Association understands the yearly return to the campus is a highlight for many OSU alumni and fans,” Alumni Association Board Chair Tony LoPresto said in a statement. “While we understand this decision will disappoint many Cowboys, we want to ensure Homecoming events can be enjoyed in a safe manner."

The football game is still scheduled.

This alumni association events that were scheduled for Oct. 26-31 included a carnival, chili cook-off and a parade.

JAIL DEATH

The Oklahoma County jail reports that an inmate being treated for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, has died.

Clarence Steven Merrell, 65, died Tuesday at a hospital where he was taken in July, jail spokesman Mac Mullings said in a news release.

Merrell had been jailed since June 26 on felony drug-related charges according to Mullings and court records.

CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Tuesday reported 861 additional confirmed coronavirus cases and 15 more deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the illness.

The department said there are 39,463 confirmed cases and 566 deaths, an increase from 38,602 confirmed cases and 551 deaths reported Monday.

The health department reported 32,319 people have recovered from the virus and said 504 were hospitalized, down from 628 hospitalizations reported Monday.

ONLINE CLASSES

On Monday, Tulsa Public Schools, the state's second largest public school district, became the latest district in Oklahoma to opt for an online-only start to the school year because of the virus.

Tulsa students will spend the first nine weeks in distance learning and Superintendent Deborah Gis will recommend what type of teaching method will be used for the second quarter before the end of October, according to a statement from the district.

Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart said he is pleased with the decision.

“We understand parents and students want to be back in a more social setting. We know that kids learn better with face to face instruction from their teachers," Dart said in a statement. “We want to return to that as soon as circumstances allow, but we want to exercise an abundance of caution.”