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Mayor asks for 10 days to stem the COVID-19 tide

Mayor David Holt wants you to give him 10 days.

Holt said in a news conference Thursday that stepped-up personal precautions over the next 10 days could reverse the explosion in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations Oklahoma City has experienced the first three weeks of November.

"Let’s get these numbers back down," he said. "Do it for our kids, do it for our businesses, do it for our health care workers, do it for all of us. I’m asking you, for the next 10 days, to take a break from higher-risk activities."

The city of Oklahoma City already has been a leader in telecommuting, daily employee screenings, mask-wearing, social distancing and other strategies to maintain a safe workplace.

That will continue as residents enter the 10-day timeout sought by the mayor to bring the numbers down, said City Manager Craig Freeman.

After the mayor's news conference, Oklahoma City Public Schools announced staff would be allowed to work remotely through Nov. 26.

Holt said the seven-day average of new cases this week is about 800, up from about 300 on Nov. 1.

The coronavirus is spreading in settings such as office conference rooms and living rooms — indoors, in close quarters, without masks, Holt said.

Thanksgiving, he said, has the potential to be the worst super-spreader event in human history.

"Set your laptop at the head of the table and do a FaceTime," Holt said. "Do a drive-by outdoor visit with your family members. Maybe even eat outdoors with distance, weather permitting.

"Just don’t put 10 people around a table and expect nothing bad to happen," he said. "One of those people has COVID-19 and at the end of that meal, everyone at that table will have COVID-19.

"It’s as simple as that. Hoping isn't working.

"It’s time to get real and for at least the next 10 days, I’m asking for you to make some tough decisions," Holt said.

The mayor said he was issuing a new emergency proclamation incorporating the statewide restrictions on indoor dining and drinking announced Monday by the governor. Those limit bars and restaurants to takeout or drive-through only after 11 p.m.

The governor's orders, adopted locally, "can be and will be enforced upon bars and restaurants by the Oklahoma City Police Department," he said.

Holt asked office managers to have employees work remotely, where feasible.

"In any case, do not hold in-person meetings in the office for the next 10 days," he said. "If you need to talk to a colleague, even if they’re in the office next door, pick up the phone."

Eat out, he said, but get takeout. "Support our local restaurants but ... do it with the highest emphasis on safety."

"Please do not meet your friends at a restaurant or bar or house party or church group or anywhere else," Holt said.

"I don’t even know your friends, but right now, I’m gonna tell you, based on the city’s numbers, your friends have the 'rona, and you should do a Zoom instead," he said.

"Pastors and other faith leaders — not only do you need to take precautions in your churches, but you can ask your congregations in your sermons this week to take precautions in all aspects of their lives," he said.

"There is no greater challenge in our community this week than COVID-19, and you have the credibility to focus your flock on the crisis at hand."

Holt said he spoke with hospital executives Wednesday.

"Our community’s health care system is essentially at capacity," he said. "It’s as if our health care workers are responding to the aftermath of a tornado, every day, week after week, month after month.

"Hospitalizations lag new cases, so this situation is going to get worse before it gets better, as the third wave of new cases spills into new hospitalizations," Holt said.

"All we can do," he said, "is weather that storm at this point — but we can lessen its duration."

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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