By Rep. Mike Sanders
The governor this week shared a three-phased approach to reopen Oklahoma businesses and start the process of restoring the state’s economy starting April 24.
This will be done using scientific modeling by health experts with the goal of keeping Oklahomans safe.
Safer at Home orders for those over 65 or who have a compromised immune system are still in place. Individuals are still advised to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others, to wash hands frequently and to wear masks in public. Employers are advised to allow employees to return to work in phases, accommodate personnel who are members of a vulnerable population, keep common areas closed and enforce social distancing protocols, minimize non-essential travel and to adhere to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and executive orders regarding isolation following travel. Visits to senior care facilities and hospitals are still prohibited.
Businesses allowed to reopen April 24 include personal care businesses such as nail and hair salons, barbershops, spas and pet groomers. They will need to open by appointment only, however, and must adhere to sanitation protocols such as customers and employees wearing masks and having all equipment and surfaces cleaned between appointments, having customers distanced from other customers, having customers wait in their cars until their appointment time, etc.
State parks and outdoor recreation areas can reopen on this date. Grocery stores should continue to maintain hours for vulnerable populations.
Schools, organized sporting events and camps currently closed should remain closed during this phase.
On May 1, other businesses will be allowed to reopen such as restaurant dining rooms, entertainment and sporting venues and movie theaters, but all must adhere to CDC-recommended social distancing and sanitation guidelines. Churches also can reopen for in-person meetings but should leave every other row or pew vacant and church nurseries closed. Bars are to remain closed.
If hospitalizations and incident rates remain at manageable levels for 14 days, the state will move to Phase 2, with a hoped-for date of May 15.
In this phase, organized sports activities can reopen and operate under proper social distancing and sanitation protocols. Bars can operate with diminished standing room occupancy. Funerals and weddings can resume under social distancing protocols. Church nurseries can reopen.
Again, if hospitalizations and incident rates remain at manageable levels for 14 days, Phase three will be implemented, which will allow for further public interaction. Employers will be able to resume unrestricted staffing of worksites, and summer camps should be able to open. More details of Phase 3 will be released in the future.
This plan is based on scientific modeling from public health experts and is in conjunction with guidance from the Oklahoma Department of Health and Department of Commerce and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It is intended to mitigate the risk of resurgence of the COVID-19 virus and to continue to protect Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens from the threat of the illness.
Before proceeding to each new phase, the state secretary of health and mental health will confirm that Oklahoma COVID-19 hospitalizations and incidence rates are at a manageable level, that hospitals are treating all patients without alternate care sites, that there is sufficient testing material in the state and the ability to conduct contact tracing, and that the state can quickly and independently supply sufficient personal protective equipment (ppe) as well as critical medical equipment, including ICU equipment, to handle any surge that might happen.
I know people want to get back to work and back to normal social activities. This will just take some time. I continue to pray for the recovery of those who are sick and for the comfort of those who have lost loved ones. I know many of you are praying these same prayers.
As always, I’m here for you if you need anything. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@okhouse.gov or (405) 557-7407.