Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart has sent a letter to all jurisdictions in Tulsa County encouraging them to follow Tulsa’s lead in restricting restaurant and bar services and closing entertainment venues.
“The measure is one of many being implemented to combat COVID19 and stop the chain of transmission of this virus,” Dart wrote. “Tulsa Health Department fully supports the mayor’s actions and recommends the implementation of similar measures in other jurisdictions to ensure the health and safety of our residents.”
In an interview with the Tulsa World, Dart compared the effort to suppress the disease to World War II.
“It’s coming together for the cause,” he said. “I know how tough this is … but if we don’t break the chain of transmission it will be much worse economically for us in the future.”
Mayor G.T. Bynum signed an executive order Tuesday ordering all Tulsa bars, restaurants and entertainment venues closed indefinitely in response to the growing spread of COVID-19.
The order provides for restaurants and bars with takeout and curbside food service can continue to offer those services.
Bynum said Tuesday that he did not take the decision lightly but believed it was important to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation on the issue.
The response from Tulsa suburbs varied widely, but most say their local businesses were already adjusting on their own terms.
Sand Springs took action a notch shy of mandates on Wednesday and officially requested voluntary compliance from restaurants, encouraging them to limit the number of patrons allowed and to transition to take-out or delivery options.
Social gatherings were also discouraged, and gyms and churches were asked to discontinue all group activities while “significantly” increasing and enhancing facility cleaning regimens.
The Keystone Ancient Forest, which regularly attracted more than 400 hikers on any open day, has also been closed, City Manager Elizabeth Gray said.
“We need to do the responsible thing,” Gray said.
Similarly, the city of Bixby encouraged restaurants and businesses to adhere to CDC recommendations in its Wednesday emergency declaration.
“In this resolution there are no mandated closures of restaurants, bars or gyms …,” Mayor Brian Guthrie said Wednesday in a Facebook post. “Small business is the backbone of our community and we must support our businesses the best we can during these troubling times. We are closely monitoring the situation and can revise this resolution if we need to.”
Michael V’s Restaurant & Bar, 8222 E. 103rd St., sits on the edge of Tulsa city limits but remains in Bixby. Owners said Wednesday that short of a mandate, the restaurant will be open for in-house dining while also offering pick-up and to-go orders.
“We are constantly sanitizing tables, chairs, door handles, restrooms and have removed tables so we can seat people 6 feet apart,” a news release reads. “We will do all we can to keep all our customers and employees safe.”
Broken Arrow took heat on Facebook for not immediately following Tulsa’s lead, but, in accordance with state law, posted 24-hour notice of an emergency City Council meeting to be held Thursday at 4 p.m. to discuss a “possible advisory vote” that could result in the mayor “limiting and closing certain commercial businesses” due to the pandemic.
Owasso leaders hadn’t yet decided whether to call a special meeting about the issue Wednesday evening, but city spokeswoman and Economic Development Director Chelsea Levo-Feary said she was working to keep local businesses informed of decisions.
Jenks will be taking action similar to Tulsa, Mayor Robert Lee said in a video conference with the Chamber of Commerce posted to Facebook on Wednesday.
Lee thanked local businesses that made changes in accord with Tulsa’s mandate from Tuesday before saying the city council was meeting Thursday to discuss the“gut-wrenching” decision.
“These are the kinds of decisions that no one wants to make, but of the awful decisions we have, this is the best one to help prevent the spread of this virus,” he said in the video.
In Sapulpa, which doesn’t fall within Tulsa County, Mayor Louis Martin said local restaurants and churches have been self-imposing restrictions in accordance with CDC guidance.
“These business owners, they’re concerned for their patrons and their employees,” Martin said. “It just seems like we’re small enough where our local businesses are very aware of the situation and are taking care of it without a mandate for the city.”
Boss Hawg BBQ, 802 W. Taft Ave. in Sapulpa, voluntarily closed its dining room.
“We decided to go ahead and get a jump on things,” said Ronda Carson, who owns the two-year-old restaurant with her husband Joel. “We are doing curbside, takeout and Grubhub only.”
Martin said city leaders would re-evaluate the situation April 6, when the emergency declaration expires.
Scott Cherry contributed to this story.
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