OKC Civic Life Journal: Holt cautious as 'reboot' begins, his complete remarks
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt opened Friday's media briefing with his observations on the course of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past week and on what comes next before taking questions.
Here are his remarks in full:
"Good afternoon. I think this will be relatively brief, but we wanted to
check in one more time on the normal Friday schedule, especially as we
move into a new phase in our pandemic response. I’ll share a few
updates and thoughts and then Dr. Patrick McGough, executive director
of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department will say a few words,
and then we’ll take questions. Moving forward, it is our intention to
move to a news-based schedule and not plan a regular press
conference. But today, we do have a few things to say.
"First of all, as everyone knows, we are moving into a new phase in our
pandemic response today. I won’t be revisiting all of that process
again today, but if you want to, the transcript of my remarks last week
is linked at my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Today, I just want to
talk about how we make the best of this new phase, both from a public
health perspective and an economic perspective.
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"From the public health perspective, please recognize that the virus
doesn’t care that it is May 1 st . We still have a deadly virus in our
community that has no vaccine and no proven treatment. We have
suffered nine more deaths in the metro area since I stood here a week
ago, for a total of 63. We send our deepest condolences to the families
of those we have lost. No matter what we do, until there is a vaccine or
proven treatment, we will live with COVID-19 as a part of our lives for
many months, maybe years. The activities returning today have the
potential to create new opportunities for spreading the virus, but it
doesn’t have to be that way. If you wash your hands, keep your
distance, and wear your mask, we can continue the relative success,
compared to other cities, that we have had in Oklahoma City. It
requires each of us taking this seriously and making smart decisions.
As an individual, though we are no longer officially sheltering in place,
you should continue to stay home if you can. Businesses who have been teleworking are encouraged to continue that practice to the greatest extent possible.
"If you own a business or work in a business that presents an especially
high-risk for transmission, you are likely subject to conditions we
introduced in my new proclamation this week. Without a vaccine or a
proven treatment, distance and sanitizing are still our chief tools of
"You can go to okc.gov to get full details, but here are the highlights:
"Bars and similar facilities remain closed, in keeping with White House
guidelines. This is also a state requirement.
"Restaurants and similar facilities have certain distancing, mask, and
sanitizing requirements in place for those locations that wish to open
their dining rooms. Those specific details are at okc.gov.
"Athletic gyms and entertainment facilities have various sanitizing
requirements in place. Those specific details can be found at okc.gov.
"Places with theater-style seating, everything from movie theaters to
places of worship, have distancing requirements in place. At least two
seats between parties and every other row closed. Full details can be
found at okc.gov.
"Personal care services, like hair and nail salons, have mask and
distancing requirements in place. Full details can be found at okc.gov.
"Also, beyond these enforceable requirements on high-risk activities,
there are great guidelines for businesses in general, and those can be
found at occhd.org.
"In addition to those conditions, please note that transit passengers
must continue to keep their distance and every other row should be
"City-owned and publicly-accessible playgrounds, basketball courts and
outdoor exercise stations remain closed.
"Permits for large events are still revoked and large events in city
facilities are still prohibited.
"Also, this is not a city requirement, but I remind you that Governor Stitt
has ordered all people over 65 and those who are vulnerable to
continue remaining at home except for essential employment or
"Also, in keeping with CDC and White House recommendations, we still
have a 10-person gathering limit on social gatherings.
"We will continue to monitor public health data to see how this goes
over the next 14 days, as called for by the White House phasing
guidelines. This means we’ll re-evaluate all of this by May 15.
"This is how we’re approaching this new phase from a public health
perspective. I recognize that the intent of a new phase is to open up
some economic opportunities that have been unavailable for the last
few weeks. However, and not to my surprise, many businesses are
now choosing to remain closed. It is likely many customers will choose
to stay away as well. This is the false hope I spoke of a few weeks ago. As
I have said here repeatedly, it was never a proclamation holding our
economy back, it was, and is, a deadly pandemic.
"Having said that, government does play a role in bringing about a more
significant economic recovery. At all levels of government, we must continue to build a robust infrastructure for testing, tracing and
quarantining. This week, Oklahoma City received over $100 million to
fund COVID-19 response. We will work in the weeks ahead to put
those funds to use, and part of the role they should play is to create the
safest environment for us to live our lives, even as we wait for a vaccine
or a proven treatment. Creating that sense of safety is the only path to
a true economic recovery.
"I want to also mention that this week we found out that we entered the
pandemic with THE lowest unemployment rate of any large city in the
United States. We were number one. In other words, we entered the
pandemic with arguably the strongest economy of all American cities.
We hope this underlying strength carries us through to the other side of
this impending recession. Also, I am heartened that the seeds of our
recovery were already planted through the passage of MAPS 4. We
have a billion-dollar stimulus waiting for us on the other side of this
pandemic. For these reasons, I think we should be bullish on OKC’s
long term future and very optimistic. But in the meantime, there is a
long road ahead before we reach that chapter. During this pandemic,
we must continue to support each other, through philanthropy,
through government support, and through our personal generosity.
"As always, I want to thank all the frontline workers, especially our
health care workers. This week, they have an acute need. They need
your blood. Please go to the Oklahoma Blood Institute web site,
obi.org, or the Red Cross web site to find information about blood
drives happening in OKC.
"As we move into a new phase, not just as a city, but with these events, I
want to quickly thank the people who have made these events happen
each week, especially the team at OCCHD, including LT Knighten, Ken
Johnson, Patty Vargas, Chris Portwood, and Tom Rybolt. Also, our City
of OKC public information team, especially Greg Singleton, Kristy Yager,
Zach Nash and Michael Kimball. Also, of course, the intepreters, our
city’s newest celebrities. Let me also thank the core team that has
worked so hard on these proclamations, especially Craig Freeman,
Kenny Tsoodle, Amanda Carpenter, and my mayor’s office team, Steve
Hill, JD Baker and Karen Fox. And of course, my thanks to the City
Council for all their hard work in this pandemic. I’m just thanking these
people because I don’t know when our next press conference will be,
but again, we’re still barely at the end of the beginning of this
pandemic. If I can leave you today with nothing else, it is the message
that we are still in the middle of this fight against COVID-19. Please
continue to keep your distance from others, continue to wash your
hands, and continue to wear masks in public."