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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: City offices remain mostly closed to public

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Oklahoma City's city buildings, like the City Municipal Building downtown pictured here, will remain closed to the public for the most part in the near future.  [DOUG HOKE/THE OKLAHOMAN]
Oklahoma City's city buildings, like the City Municipal Building downtown pictured here, will remain closed to the public for the most part in the near future. [DOUG HOKE/THE OKLAHOMAN]

City government's downtown buildings, including City Hall, will remain mostly closed to the public as executives institute a phased plan for returning employees to their offices amid the uncertainty of the path the COVID-19 pandemic will take.

"The pandemic is far from over," City Manager Craig Freeman says in a video prepared for employees, many of whom have been working from home at least part-time for weeks. "We have all been changed by this crisis, and so has the way we do business."

The most visible and public of all government work, the convening of the city council, has been conducted by teleconference since March 31. That will continue indefinitely, in part because the third-floor council chamber in City Hall is being renovated.

But it is worth noting that the council, which often draws crowds energized by neighborhood disputes and other controversies, has received virtually no direct input from the general public since moving to the new pandemic-driven format.

Three younger council members, Ward 2's James Cooper, Ward 6's JoBeth Hamon and Ward 7's Nikki Nice, have filled the gap somewhat with a weekly series of Tuesday afternoon virtual town halls. This week's topics were transit and microbusiness grants.

Some 500 to 550 city employees have been teleworking. Freeman says in his video that policies geared to keeping the coronavirus out of the workplace will be followed as employees return to their offices.

Public access will be restricted to first floors at buildings such as 420 W Main St., where Development Services, Planning, MAPS are headquartered. ID badge readers are being installed in elevators and unprotected entrances, and a first-floor office is being renovated to assist visitors.

Freeman also says:

• "Phased reentry to city offices ... could include sequencing schedules and staggered work shifts."

• "Everybody’s temperatures will continue to be taken before entering the building."

• "Face masks will be provided but employees can wear their own."

• "The number of employees on elevators will be limited to allow for distancing."

Housecleaning procedures will continue to include disinfectant fogging of buildings. The Emergency Management office’s medical monitoring unit is tracking employees who have been exposed to coronavirus and conducting contact tracing of coworkers, Freeman said.


William Crum

OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman. Read more ›

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