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No virus in county, but it is having a dramatic effect

Schools closed; no trials; gatherings discouraged

A week ago the outbreak of coronavirus, which causes the COVID – 19 disease, was something happening in a different part of the state, a different state and in some distant country.

The closest reported cases in Oklahoma were in Tulsa, almost 100 miles from McIntosh County.

While the county remains free of COVID-19, the Oklahoma State Health Department reported, as of Monday, there have been 10 cases across the state.

None of those cases are near here. They are in Canadian County (1 case), Cleveland (1), Jackson (1), Kay (1), Oklahoma (2), Payne (1) and Tulsa (3).

Nationwide, there have been over 3,700 confirmed cases, with at least 74 deaths. Globally, the number of cases has surpassed 169,000, with more than 6,500 dead.

Though the disease is still 100 miles from the McIntosh County, it is having a dramatic impact on life here.

Schools are closed.

Eufaula’s library is closed to the public.

District Court trials are put on hold, though the Courthouse remains open for all other business.

Gatherings of large groups of people are discouraged – President Trump stated in a speech Monday that there should be no more than 10 people gathering at one location.

Though local restaurants are open, they are being encouraged to offer take-out and delivery.

Nursing homes are not allowing visitation.

Schools

Following an emergency meeting Monday by the Oklahoma State Board of Education, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announced the closing of schools across the state from March 17 until April 6.

She said state education officials will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation to determine if it’s necessary to extend the closure.

“Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of Oklahomans,” Hofmeister said in a statement. “It is critical that we do everything in our power to protect the health of our kids, their families, educators and all vulnerable populations. That need outweighs everything else. The OSDE has been working around the clock, and will continue to do so, to ease the burden of schools during this challenging time.

Eufaula and Checotah schools, though competitive in sports, are united in doing whatever it takes to get through these trying times.

“We are planning to meet with Checotah schools on Thursday to make plans for meals and continuing education,” Eufaula Superintendent Jeanette Smith said. “This is going to require the communities to work together to get through this.”

Checotah School Superintendent Monte Madewell says his district is taking every precaution to protect students.

“We are sanitizing all areas of our campuses daily. Individuals returning from traveling outside of the continental United States or on a cruise should self-quarantine for a period fo 14 days before returning to school. This applies to all students, teachers and other school or district staff.

“Students, teachers and other school or district staff that have been quarantined for 14 days must be cleared by a doctor in order to return to school. We have attached a link below from the Centers of Disease Control regarding the spread of COVID-19 throughout the United States,” Madewell said.

The school also cancelled all school sanctioned out of state travel until further notice. “We do not want to be responsible for bringing the virus into our community and ask all of you use discretion when traveling out of state or attending events around big crowds,” Madewell said.

Eufaula School Board President Jeff Pippenger, a registered pharmacist, has been paying close attention to the rapid spread of the virus.

“We get information from a lot of sources. From the Health Department. From the Centers for Disease Control. From the Pharmacy Association,” Pippenger said. “Everybody is very much on top of the disease. And the superintendent is keeping us informed about what is going on at the district and state levels of government.”

He said coronavirus is not entirely new. “There are seven strains of the virus, which can produce SARs (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERs (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and COVID-19,” Pippenger said.

COVID-19 stands for “coronavirus disease 2019.”

He suggested that COVID-19 be treated like the flu, until health care officials come up with a better solution.

The disease is not to be scoffed at.

“We should be concerned,” Pippenger said. “It is important to practice good hygiene. Soap can kill the virus so wash your hands frequently. It may not prevent it entirely, but it can reduce its spread. I think we just need to keep our eyes open and be aware.”

COVID-19 seems to affect older people, especially senior citizens with lung issues.

Pippenger urged people not to have a kneejerk reaction to what is happening.

City government

Though COVID-19 has not yet hit McIntosh County, officials are exercising extreme caution based upon the advice of the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and other health care experts.

Eufaula Mayor James Duty on Monday proclaimed a state of emergency in the city.

The proclamation “strongly discourages” all in-person gatherings for “social, spiritual and recreational purposes, including but not limited to community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based or sporting events parades, concerts, festivals, conventions, fundraisers and similar activities.”

Among other things, it also closes city parks; cancels city meetings such as the March 27 special City Council meeting and puts on hold the disconnection of water services to customers due to non-payment for the March 24 disconnect day.

Checotah Mayor Daniel Tarkington says the city is handling the situation just as it handles flu season.

“”We are handling things the same way as we have every year for the flu season by making sure everyone is washing hands, using hand sanitizer and keeping public facility’s clean as possible. As far as plans on what to do if it made it to Checotah, we have none at this time other than pray we don’t have to deal with it, the City has to stay open and running to make sure the water is treated and on to our customers, the same for sewer and that the needs in town are being taken care of,” Tarkington said. “Police and fire must stay operating not matter what happens.’

The big word IF.

“If it made it here we would work on a plan to help take care of the problem but at this time we all need to just do our part in trying to wash hands and no to be around others if sick,” Tarkington said.

District Court

On March 16, the State Supreme Court Chief Justice Noma D. Gurich encouraged social distancing and to avoid risks to judges, court clerks, court employees and the public.

The order by Gurich states:

“All district courts shall cancel all jury terms for the next 30 days and to release jurors from service. No additional jurors shall be summoned without approval of the Chief Justice. All civil, criminal and juvenile jury trials shall be continued to the next available jury dockets,” wrote Gurich.

Furthermore, says Gurich, “subject only to constitutional limitations, all deadlines and procedures whether prescribed by statute, rule or order in any civil, juvenile or criminal case, shall be suspended for 30 days from the date of this order. This suspension also applies to appellate rules and procedures for the Su preme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Court of Civil Appeals.”

Associate District Judge Brendon Bridges also released an administrative order making a number of temporary changes at the Courthouse.

While trials have been put on hold, the Courthouse remains open for business.

However, those entering the building must have their temperatures taken. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher will not be allowed in the Courthouse, unless the court grants leave.

Visitation restricted at care facilities

the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the agency is authorizing the following facilities to restrict visitors as they deem necessary to protect those they serve:

•Nursing facilities

•Assisted living centers

•Residential care facilities

•Adult day care centers

•Intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities

•Hospitals

•Other medical facilities or congregate living settings which house or serve vulnerable populations

•City and county detention for week facilities

Churches

Trinity Episcopal in Eufaula closed its worship services effective March 13. They will resume Palm Sunday, April 5.

“All Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Oklahoma are closed until then,” said Therese Starr, Priest-in-Charge of the Eufaula Church.

Rev. Jim Jones of the First United Methodist Church of Checotah said that instead of their usual community serving for their first of the month communion, they will offer individual or self serve communion.

The church is also prepared to go online if needed, like Facebook live IF it got so bad and they had no services at the church.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation

Principal Chief David Hill declared a state of emergency for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation effective March 13 to minimize the potential spread of the Novel Coronavirus Disease, also known as COVID-19.

The executive order mandates the following:

- Discontinues chartered community and large group gatherings

- Suspends Elderly Nutrition communal meals

- Halts employee work travel indefinitely

- Gives authority to departments to make necessary purchases related to cleaning and sanitization

McIntosh County Democrat

300-A S. Broadway
Checotah, OK 74426
(918) 473-2313