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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: No joke, but 'not scared' in OKC's Western Avenue district

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As an octogenarian, Redell Jones is at a higher risk for becoming ill or dying from the coronavirus, but on a recent Thursday afternoon she sat on her front porch just east of the Western Avenue district, sipped coffee from a glass and complained more about the sewer on her street spitting up mud and trash during a storm the night before.

“The devil don’t want me and Jesus don’t need me,” she said. “I just trust in the Lord. I’m 83. I’ve seen the flus and the pneumonias. I’m not scared. If nothing has caught me now, nothing will.”

As Jones spoke, the number of those in Oklahoma who tested positive for COVID-19 continued to rise. Earlier that day in Tulsa County, the state’s first coronavirus-related death was reported.

In the neighborhood by Western Avenue, residents and merchants adjusted to life under a pandemic, with some taking breaks while working from home and others shrugging their shoulders and carrying on.

Some were seen jogging or walking their dogs. One man said he was less concerned about the coronavirus than he was about fixing a broken tail light. A woman in her early 30s hustled to her car. On her way to Homeland, she was picking up groceries to deliver to her mother.

“Bread, if I can find it,” she said. “And some yogurt.”

Asked if she made a run on toilet paper, as so many Americans have in recent weeks, the woman shook her head.

“I did not partake,” she said. “It’s sad it came to that.”

Western Avenue itself was a hodge-podge of closed eateries and other shops next to stores that remained open for business. Like other shopping and entertainment districts in the metro area, the district saw many visitors looking to get out of their houses after their employers told them to work from home.

A 39-year-old Edmond man who works in oil and gas, and did not want to be identified, was frustrated that a record shop was closed.

“I’ve been sitting in my (expletive) house for two weeks,” he said. “I’m just sitting at the computer, contacting work, and they’re saying stay home. It’s like the Dark Ages.”

An eatery next to the record store posted a handwritten note on its door:

“Store officially closed. Love you all. See ya soon!!”

Some business owners who kept their shops open did not want to talk about the coronavirus, out of fear of being wrongly connected to its spread.

Others said they have notified their customers through social media that if they are sick, they should stay home. Appointments can be rescheduled.

"I’ve had a couple people cancel because they’re being cautious,” said Jeff Beardsley, a tattoo artist at Western Avenue Tattoo. “If I don’t work I don’t make money. In our business, we have to be sterile and clean. I don’t think much for us has changed.”

Just up the road at Autobahn Foreign Car Repair, owner Rick Sattre said business has been steady.

In his line of work, he hears more about needed engine work than the latest news about coronavirus.

“You mention it, and they’ll talk about it,” Sattre said. “You just want to be sociable. You’re looking to help people.”

Back on her porch, Jones finished her coffee. She keeps up with coronavirus news. She’s heard some say the pandemic is being sensationalized.

“I don’t think it’s a joke,” she said.

Related Photos
<strong>Cock O' the Walk on Western Avenue in Oklahoma City on Thursday. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Cock O' the Walk on Western Avenue in Oklahoma City on Thursday. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-daebdfc33597a1ab726adc54521793c1.jpg" alt="Photo - Cock O' the Walk on Western Avenue in Oklahoma City on Thursday. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Cock O' the Walk on Western Avenue in Oklahoma City on Thursday. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Cock O' the Walk on Western Avenue in Oklahoma City on Thursday. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-c81edfdc1ff54d440cefaf8251d8cf2a.jpg" alt="Photo - Lee's Sandwiches employee Cathy Truong takes food to a customer at the Western Avenue restaurant on Thursday. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Lee's Sandwiches employee Cathy Truong takes food to a customer at the Western Avenue restaurant on Thursday. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Lee's Sandwiches employee Cathy Truong takes food to a customer at the Western Avenue restaurant on Thursday. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-da12e5e21e0e575c8b5e44d2f4a5288b.jpg" alt="Photo - Earl's Rib Palace employees Teresa Barela, left, and Veronica Barrios assist David Adams as he picks up his food order at the location on north Western. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Earl's Rib Palace employees Teresa Barela, left, and Veronica Barrios assist David Adams as he picks up his food order at the location on north Western. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Earl's Rib Palace employees Teresa Barela, left, and Veronica Barrios assist David Adams as he picks up his food order at the location on north Western. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Josh Dulaney

Josh Dulaney joined The Oklahoman in November 2016. Dulaney is a California Newspaper Publishers Association award winner for his writing. In both 2018 and 2019 he earned newspaper writer of the year honors from the Great Plains Journalism Awards. Read more ›

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