“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” City Manager Joan Riley said before an extremely sparse emergency city council meeting on Thursday, April 2nd; several City Councilors had opted to call into the meeting by phone. Aside from the Sapulpa Times and one couple in the back of the room, there was nobody in the audience to hear the discussion taking place.
It wasn’t a discussion as much as a mutual understanding that this is what needed to happen now. “There’s nothing wrong with people getting out and about,” Riley continued, “but they’re still congregating.” Speaking about the previous orders and CDC guidelines about practicing social distancing, Riley said that she doesn’t feel it’s being taken seriously enough. “They’re not taking it to the level they need to,” she said.
Riley raised the concern that the measures they’d taken up to this point weren’t having the effect they’d hoped for. She mentioned an “incomplete” list of Sapulpa businesses that numbered 212. “Less than a third of these are closed,” she said. “Not that they’re doing it wrong, it’s just that there is a broad range of essential categories and it’s not doing enough to slow the spread.” She implored the council to remember the citizens and their well-being, and that they understand the magnitude of this. “We need to do more,” she said.
City Attorney David Widdoes echoed Riley’s statements by saying that this Shelter In Place order was going to bring Sapulpa in alignment with what other Tulsa metro-area cities are already doing.
Riley agreed with this. “We have people that are confused and calling, asking us, “are we or aren’t we? This will clear up that confusion. Yes. We are.”
Shelter In Place
The amendment, which unanimously passed 10-0, orders the citizens of Sapulpa to “shelter at their place of residence,” and may leave only do essential tasks, like going to the grocery store, the pharmacy or to work at an essential business. The order also allows residents to leave to “engage in outdoor activity,” so long as they “comply with social distancing requirements of six feet.” This means yes, you can go walk the trails at Kelly Lane Park, but no, you cannot play on the playgrounds or basketball courts. The city passed a measure on March 31st closing all city-owned playgrounds and sports courts, and the municipal golf course.
Residents are also permitted to leave in order to attend church if their church is “conducted in an open space in compliance with all city codes and provide that all participants remain enclosed in their motor vehicle during such service and the vehicles maintain distancing of at least 6 feet from other motor vehicles.” Several churches in the area have been doing what they call “Drive-In Church,” where the service takes place in the parking lot, and the congregation listens from inside their car, usually via their radio.
“The next hotspot”
Widdoes said that according to the data from the Tulsa Health Department, “Oklahoma is poised to be the next hotspot for infections in the next two to four weeks.”
Referencing a Tulsa World story from April 1st, Widdoes said that depending on the level of restrictions that are put into place now, the Tulsa County area could see as many as 75,000 to 350,000 infected cases in the next 30-60 days.
When addressing the city council, Widdoes said that he normally doesn’t interject his personal preferences into city council decisions, as he sees it outside his responsibility as the City Attorney. He stated that he was making an exception tonight. “As an attorney, I have to consider the ethical and moral standards…I cannot sit idly by when I see the need for significant action. I would be okay with the city council taking even more restrictive action.”
Will I get pulled over? What happens if I don’t comply?
The only question of concern came from Wes Galloway, who wondered how the city would enforce this order. He stated that he’d been asked if people would need to worry about getting pulled over by the police to be questioned about where they were going. Widdoes said that was not the intent behind the order and Riley agreed. “This is about stopping the congregating at the playgrounds, at the big box stores,” she said.
Widdoes did emphasize that it was an order and that the police had been authorized to issue citations (believed to be an amount of $200) to those who did not comply with the shelter at home order. He did clarify that it wouldn’t be on the first offense, however. “The first step is going to be education,” Widdoes said. “We’re going to make sure they’re aware that the city has a new order, and that they have to abide by it.”
At the upcoming City Council meeting on Monday, there may be an item on the agenda to discuss raising that fine.
The order to shelter in place takes effect from 11:59 PM on April 2nd to 7:00 PM on May the 4th, or until Governor Stitt terminates the state of emergency for Oklahoma, whichever comes later.
Creek County has the fourth-highest number of reported Coronavirus cases in the state with 36 confirmed cases, behind Cleveland County (121), Tulsa County (151) and Oklahoma County (218). As of Thursday, the state was at 879 cases total.