OK to return to bars, playgrounds, mayor says
Mayor David Holt has released Oklahoma City's latest COVID-19 emergency order, allowing bars to reopen and lifting the 10-person limit on social gatherings effective Friday.
The "Phase 2" reopening order applies the rules on indoor restaurant dining to bars, requiring sanitizing, 6-foot spacing of tables, and masks and/or plexiglass barriers for servers. A 50% capacity limit is set on outdoor patios.
Public venues including the downtown Chesapeake Energy Arena, Civic Center Music Hall and Bricktown Ballpark are cleared to open at managers' discretion. City playgrounds are reopened, but the two MAPS 3 senior health and wellness centers will remain closed.
Holt said the latest public health data supports "Phase 2" reopening, citing a "downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses and COVID-like syndromic cases ... and a downward trajectory of positive COVID tests as a percent of total tests” in the past 14 days.
Those standards are among the "gating criteria" issued by the White House for the phased unwinding of pandemic emergency orders.
Holt began easing city restrictions intended to slow the spread of coronavirus two weeks ago. The first emergency orders had been issued in mid-March, within days of confirmation the coronavirus was spreading locally.
The latest orders extend precautionary measures for businesses, churches and public facilities, but place decisions on whether to be open in private hands.
"Everything is open. That's the spirit of Phase 2," Holt said in an interview Thursday afternoon. "It's their choice now."
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Credit for the progress Oklahoma City has made so far goes to the majority of individuals who have taken the threat seriously, he said.
Noting as he often does that the virus pays no heed to the contents of government proclamations, Holt said there was a long road ahead and emphasized the importance of maintaining "the focus we've had so far."
The 10-person limit on social gatherings is replaced in the latest proclamation by advice that gatherings avoid exceeding 50 guests.
Mask requirements remain in place for employees who have contact with the public at gyms, the MAPS 3 whitewater park and similar recreational facilities.
Theaters, churches, event centers, funeral homes and similar venues must keep two seats between groups in rows and close every other row, staggering seating.
Citing federal requirements, the proclamation says businesses should allow employees to wear a mask at work, at the employee's discretion, "so long as it does not interfere with the essential functions of their job."
A further loosening of restrictions is anticipated in two weeks so long as it is supported by positive trends in public health data. The city's steps align with the governor's plans for restoring business activity.