Norman city and health officials held a press conference discussing further protective measures the city would take against the spread of the coronavirus as Mayor Breea Clark announced a stay-at-home order for the next three weeks.
During the virtual press conference, which was held via Zoom, Clark said the stay-at-home order and the order for closure of all nonessential Norman businesses will take effect with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s orders at midnight. They will remain in place until April 14 at midnight, when the city will evaluate if the order must be extended.
“The actions we are announcing today line up not only with what the cities, counties and states are doing all over (the) nation, but it also follows the recommendations of what 21 different medical associations in Oklahoma believe is the necessary course of action despite the spread of this virus,” Clark said. “We do not have the luxury to wait for these things to get worse before we take action to slow the spread and protect our community.”
City Manager Darrel Pyle said the goal of the orders is not to write tickets or close businesses, but to educate those who violate the orders. Pyle said in instances where larger crowds are gathering, police officers would be “more than happy” to visit with businesses or individuals who don’t understand the orders.
Workers traveling to and from work will not have to show specific papers to show that they are essential employees, Pyle said, and police will not be asking for any verification for who people are or where they are going.
Clark said her decisions were not made lightly, and that she understands that this will impact businesses and employees, but the sooner the city can control the virus’ spread, the sooner “we can get back to life as normal.”
“The only way now that we can dampen and limit the impact of this (virus) in our community is through these measures to reduce new exposures and prevent transmission,” said Gary Raskob, dean and regents professor of the OU Health Sciences Center’s College of Public Health, during the conference.
Brittany Langston with Norman Regional Hospital said the community will likely see things it hasn’t before as a part of the system’s response to the coronavirus, such as trailers and tents outside of emergency departments for “pre-hospital staging.”
“That is to prepare for a surge of patients that present to our emergency departments,” Langston said. “Our hope is to keep those patients that are presenting safe, as well as (to keep) the patients that are already inside the building safe.”
Langston said they are working closely with metro hospitals to “deliver one message together,” like the united decision to cancel all elective surgeries and increase visitor restrictions to protect community members from the spread of the coronavirus disease.
“We do have a contingency plan should we have a large influx of patients to care for,” Langston said. “Units have been dedicated so that we can cohort patients together as that's what's recommended by the CDC, and we are being very quick and nimble to adjust our care plans to be able to treat those patients no matter what level of care they may require.”
Clark and President of the Norman Chamber of Commerce Scott Martin both said that these orders do not mean Norman is “closed for business,” but that Norman businesses are just having to be creative in the way they conduct operations.
“We will get through this,” Clark said. “I'm excited for the fact that when this has passed us, which will be hopefully sooner than later, we will have policies and different standards in place that will make us better in the long run. And I'm confident for that.”