Mayor William Joyce issued a proclamation Wednesday which extended Stillwater’s state of emergency and provided regulations under which some businesses can begin reopening.
Previous proclamations intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 included escalating restrictions on business activity in the city that were set to expire on Thursday at 11:59 p.m. The new emergency declaration is set to expire on May 16 at 11:59 p.m., but it may be extended. During the city council meeting on Monday, Joyce said business owners should expect such regulations to be in place before opening on Friday.
Under the new order, salons, barbershops, gyms, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, churches and bowling alleys will be allowed to resume operations provided they obey the regulations in the proclamation. The order also maintains some aspects of previous proclamations, such as the ban on gatherings of 10 or more.
Different types of businesses have their own specific requirements, but some commonalities are temperature checks, masks and thorough sanitation procedures.
Joyce said businesses and residents re-engaging in the economy should focus on doing so safely.
“We want this to go smoothly, right?” Joyce said. “I think the worst outcome at this point for the plan would be for a bunch of people to kind of go out and be reckless.”
Joyce said the reopening process may be slowed down or even reversed if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases. He said a number of data sets would be considered in decisions about the easing or reinstating of restrictions and the number of cases reported by the local hospital and the county health department would be important indicators.
“I know people are cooped up and ready to get out,” Joyce said. “I am too. I would just say please do it safely. Please follow the guidelines.”
He said business owners were not required to file any forms with the city but should post the city’s requirements for their establishment publicly so customers can see what steps are being taken. If a business appears to be operating unsafely, residents can call the city manager or the non-emergency police number, he said.
Violations of the proclamation can carry a maximum fine of $500 per violation. Similar fines were attached to previous proclamations as an enforcement mechanism.
Vice Mayor Pat Darlington said fines would be handed out as a matter of last resort.
“A fine is not what we’re after at all,” Darlington said.
She said the city wants businesses to comply on their own and a conversation should occur before fines are issued.
“I think the vast majority of us want to do what’s right,” Darlington said.
She said the city’s requirements for the various types of businesses were based on both state guidelines and industry standards. The requirements for businesses were put in place with the goal of keeping people safe, she said.
“Right now this is the best thing we can do,” Darlington said. “Are masks perfect? No. Is social distancing perfect? No. Is super sanitation perfect? No. Those are all three things that are really going to help.”
Darlington said the restrictions are temporary, but necessary. She said she was grateful for the community’s patience and understanding as the city continues to handle this crisis.
“If anyone feels totally overwhelmed, and at their wits end, please ask for help,” Darlington said.
Darlington said she was available by phone or email for community members who need help. She also said the library’s website contains a useful list of mental health resources.
For residents worried about their physical health, COVID-19 tests are available through the Payne County Health Department. Matthew Adams, a nurse at the health department, said there is testing capacity available for individuals who may not have previously qualified for a test.
“Here at the Payne County Health Department, we’re testing every day, and we have tests available,” Adams said.
He said priority is still given to individuals who have symptoms or have been in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19.
Industry specific regulations can be found in the text of the proclamation, which is available on the city website’s breaking news page.