Several measures aimed at reducing the spread of Covid-19, the coronavirus that the World Health Organization has deemed a pandemic, will go into effect today following a unanimous vote of the Bartlesville City Council.
The council held an emergency meeting on March 18 to consider proposed measures in response to the pandemic based on recommendations by City Manager Mike Bailey. While there are currently no confirmed cases of the virus in Washington County, Bailey and City department directors have been working for the past month to identify potential areas of concern should the virus become widespread in the community as well as ways to help reduce spread of the disease.
“When it became obvious this virus could potentially become a threat in the U.S., we began looking at our current practices and how they might need to be altered in the event of widespread illness, both in our citizen population and our employees,” Bailey said. “Our primary focus has been and continues to be maintaining continuity of the essential services we provide — water, waste water, police, fire and sanitation — to our citizens. We quickly realized that also have a responsibility, to the extent that we can, to put into place protocols that will not only help reduce exposure of this virus to the public but to our City employees as well.
“After obtaining updates and input from Gov. (Kevin) Stitt’s office and the Oklahoma State Department of Health, in conjunction with the guidelines set forth by the Centers of Disease Control and the World Health Organization over the past several days, we were ready to present these recommendations to the City Council.”
The City Council approved the following measures by voting to adopt the Covid-19 Mitigation Measures Resolution presented Wednesday:
- Existing special event permits will be revoked and no further special event permits will be issued.
- Municipal Court will be suspended other than by teleconference where required. No further failure to appear warrants will be issued or served.
- All Code Enforcement hearings will be suspended.
- Public gatherings of greater than 50 people will not be allowed at any City owned or managed facility.
- Further utility cut-offs will be suspended. The city manager will be directed to reestablish service for any disconnected customer. Amounts due will not be forgiven.
- City owned pools will not be opened.
- The Bartlesville Public Library and History Museum will be closed to the public.
- All City board and committee meetings will be canceled except for City Council and all Authorities. Authorities will be encouraged to meet only when necessary.
- The use of City owned meeting rooms for public gatherings of any size is prohibited.
- In-person gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational purposes including, but not limited to, community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based or sporting events, parades, concerts, festivals, conventions, fundraisers and similar activities are strongly discouraged.
- Restaurants, bars and other privately-owned gathering places are highly encouraged to limit the number of patrons such that at least six feet of space is available to each person. Such facilities are further encouraged to provide enhanced “take out” and “delivery” options.
- Local gyms and exercise facilities are encouraged to discontinue all group activities and to significantly increase and enhance facility sanitation regiments.
The resolution to be considered by the council will also allow the city manager to take the following actions:
- Where practical, close portions of public facilities to the public and encourage the use of email, telephone and other remote methods of conducting business with the City.
- Modify work schedules and conditions as necessary to ensure business continuity and employee safety.
- Invoke special protocols to limit the risk of exposure for City employees.
- Establish procedures for certain employees to telecommute where practical.
- Provide paid admin leave for employees who have potentially been exposed to Covid-19 as per management developed policy.
- Establish mandatory disinfection protocols for all City facilities.
- Take other actions as necessary to preserve the health and safety of City employees.
- As needed and where prudent, utilize funding from the Capital Reserve Fund to purchase items necessary to facilitate these directions.
The measures will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, and will be reviewed and, if warranted, amended or renewed by the council during its regularly scheduled meeting on the first Monday of every month.
“We have been careful to ensure that our approach is measured and appropriate in this situation,” Bailey said. “We certainly do not want to feed into the panic that could create further hardships for our citizens but rather make reasonable and rational decisions that will result in us taking the appropriate actions to protect our citizens and City employees.
“We believe these measures will help us do that. It is important to note that none of these proposed actions are draconian or over-reaching. They are primarily intended to encourage or bolster guidelines and recommendations already set forth by the CDC and the WHO and are in accordance with the information we’ve received from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.”
The virus, which is highly contagious, is spread through person-to-person contact. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for Covid-19.
To help reduce the chance of infection, the CDC recommends:
- Frequent hand washing with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.
- Use hand sanitizer when washing is not possible.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- If you are sick, wear a facemask and call ahead before you seek medical care.
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.Top of Form
Anyone who suspects they may have Covid-19 should contact their primary care provider or hospital by phone prior to seeking treatment. Testing is available through private labs and 68 county health departments but must be referred by a primary care provider or hospital. Health department test kits are limited. For more information, contact the Oklahoma State Department of Health Coronavirus Hotline at 877-215-8336.