City of Okemah amends emergency proclamation
Non-essential businesses ordered to close, curfew hours extended by two hours
By Ken Childers
In an effort to slow the spread of the COIVID-19 virus, all non-essential businesses in Okemah were ordered to close last week.
Following an emergency meeting of the Okemah City Council Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Mike Fuller signed an amended civil emergency proclamation ordering the closures as well as a change to the city’s curfew for juveniles. The original proclamation, which limited restaurants to take-out and delivery only and closed bars and gyms, was signed March 19.
Under the amended proclamation, businesses such as hair and nail salons, barber shops, spas, tattoo parlors and piercing facilities were ordered to close by 5 p.m. on April 1. Curfew hours, which previously ran from midnight – 5 a.m., now begin at 10 p.m. until the emergency is lifted.
According to the proclamation, any business owner who keeps a non-essential business open is subject to Section 1-4-1 of the city code, which states the following: “Except as otherwise provided by state law, whenever in this code or in any ordinance of the city an act is prohibited or is made or declared to be unlawful or an offense or a misdemeanor, or whenever in the code or ordinance the doing of any act is required or the failure to do any act is declared to be unlawful, where no specific penalty is provided therefor, the violation of any provision of this code or of any ordinance, upon conviction, shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding $500.00.”
Shortly after Fuller signed the new proclamation, Gov. Kevin Stitt extended his “Safer at Home” executive order to all 77 counties, which essentially echoed the city’s actions. Stitt’s order also calls for people over the age of 65 and those with underlying medical conditions to stay at home unless running errands such as going to the pharmacy or grocery store.
Prior to the council taking any action on Wednesday, Okemah Chamber of Commerce President Alan Oatsvall asked council members to carefully weigh the economic impact of their decision.
“Life is still going on. Let’s not be the reason we kill life within our own community. Let’s be the reason to help it…let’s put those safeguards in place that the CDC, the state governments and the federal government has put in place. Let’s follow the leads of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but let’s not kill our businesses,” Oatsvall said, adding that the chamber would support the council’s decision.
“We are not here as a council to close cash registers,” said Fuller. “We want registers open. We want money coming to our small businesses. From what I’ve been witnessing, we’re supporting our small businesses.”
Councilor Wayne Bacon said the action was necessary because local residents are not taking the health threat seriously. “This is just a crazy thing to happen in our community, and I don’t feel our citizens are taking it seriously enough. This is truly a life or death matter. Please don’t go out just to go out,” he said.
City Manager Dustin Danker said the action was being taken to protect the city’s most vulnerable population – senior citizens. “We’ve got 681 people in the city of Okemah over 65 years of age. That’s why we’re doing this,” Danker said. “They’re high risk. That’s a huge number. If people would just stay home, take care of business that you have to take care of, we’ll get through this.”
Other actions taken by the city in response to the pandemic include closing the municipal park and basketball courts. The city-wide clean up week scheduled for April 13-18 has been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date.