Jenks Mayor encourages citizens to find balance in Phase I of re-opening

Jenks Mayor encourages citizens to find balance in Phase I of re-opening

On March 19, our council voted to limit capacities of many Jenks businesses to 10, and on March 22, with near unanimous consent from council, the city of Jenks closed restaurants to dine-in patrons, closed bars, gyms, and entertainment venues. On March 29, council approved our safer at home order, closing all non-essential businesses and requiring citizens to remain at their residences under most circumstances.

We took these extraordinary steps because of the ongoing pandemic, in order to slow the rate of spread to keep our local hospitals from being overwhelmed. Our region’s quick action has accomplished this goal so far, and our hospitals have remained at about two thirds of the way full. Jenks was one of the quickest to respond to this pandemic, and we have the lowest numbers of confirmed cases per capita as a result of our quick action.

On April 22, Governor Stitt announced a push to put the state into the first phase of reopening, which is similar to the first social distancing measures our council put in place. Last night we voted to enter into this first phase beginning May 1, along with the state and our regional neighbors.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it does look like our actions over the past weeks have managed to slow the spread of Covid-19 and have avoided swamping our hospitals. Businesses and the workforce have suffered tremendously, and it appears that loosening up a bit is something we can sustain for the time being.

On the other hand, we know the virus is still here. It’s not entirely clear that we have peaked in our region, and we are all but certain to see an uptick in infections once people start to mix around more. There are businesses that rightly won’t feel safe opening, who may no longer be eligible for financial assistance if they stay closed. There are employees who rightly won’t feel safe returning to work, who will no longer be eligible for unemployment assistance and may not be able to keep their jobs if they don’t risk their health to come into work. This concerns me very much.

What we’re trying to do with this first phase is find a balance. A balance that allows businesses to function just enough, while slowing the rate of infection just enough. As difficult as our previous votes have been, I was certain each time we were doing the right thing. This time, I’m not as certain, but we will continue to watch the daily progression of this pandemic, and we’ll be prepared to take further action if circumstances warrant it. Tulsa Health Department is calculating the benchmarks for further action, and I recommend that we follow their advice.

This first phase will end our Safer at Home order for the time being. It will allow most businesses to open, with strict social distancing guidelines. It will allow the Oklahoma Aquarium to reopen, and they’re working on a system for admitting visitors by appointment. The dog park and skate park will reopen, although playground equipment will remain closed.

Easing restrictions is by no means an announcement that the coast is clear. The virus is still here, and as our region begins to lift restrictions, we can expect to see higher numbers of cases. My message is: don’t be one of those numbers.

It’s not enough to stay home just if you feel sick. If you’re infected, it could take weeks before you show symptoms, and some will never show symptoms at all. This means we all have the power to spread this virus far and wide, even if we don’t feel sick.

The best and safest thing you can do will be to continue to stay home if at all possible. If you have to leave your home, keep your distance. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it frequently. The virus can survive on surfaces for days, so use a disinfectant wipe off the gas pump handle, and any other surfaces you may come into contact with that others touch. Use curbside pickup and delivery whenever it’s an option. Support local businesses wherever you can, and please be safe.

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