Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt announced a series of new directives today aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Beginning Friday, Holt announced that:
- All bar and restaurant staff in the city must wear a mask;
- Bars will be reduced to 50 percent capacity, with bars defined as those designated as a “type one” facility by the ABLE Commission;
- Any venue with theater-style seating must return to staggered seating with every other row empty and at least two seats between patrons sitting on the same row.
“The most dangerous activity is simply having a conversation with another person where tiny droplets of saliva are spread,” Holt said, explaining the benefit of masks.
The new measures will take effect at the beginning of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, and they come after the Oklahoma City metro has seen a bump in novel coronavirus cases along with the rest of the state. Oklahoma set its one-day record for new cases with 585 cases Tuesday.
Holt said that while hospitalizations in Oklahoma City have remained flat over the last week, he remains concerned about increases in that metric as the July 4 holiday approaches.
“Regarding new cases and positive test percentages, both categories went into a mild decline for a full week, however those declines have now stalled and the numbers look to be heading back up again,” Holt said of the OKC metro area. “And though we did experience a decline, they weren’t as dramatic as the increase.”
‘We now have thousands of cases to look at’
In a briefing last week, Holt identified seven activities that have contributed to the increased spread. Those included weddings, funerals, house parties, bars, churches, gyms and small gatherings as the primary culprits.
“We no longer have to speculate about what activities might spread the virus,” he said. “We now have thousands of cases to look at.”
Holt said two areas stood out to epidemiologists in their analysis of the city’s new cases.
“The two sources of outbreak in particular that have really stood out to our epidemiologists are restaurant and bar workers and bar patrons,” he said. “This new information is perhaps no surprise based on the younger demographic of our cases last month.”
Dr. Patrick McGough, executive director of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, said his agency has received reports of workers at restaurants and bars who are sick with the novel coronavirus.
“Keeping our economy open depends on each one of us,” he said. “Wash your hands, stay six feet from others and wear a mask.”
McGough said if an employee is determined to be sick they must be removed from the workplace immediately and that the facility will be asked to close for 24 hours for cleaning.
Still, Holt said he does not favor a mask mandate owing to limitations in enforcement.
“Whether you use that word or you don’t use that word, you are trying to persuade and encourage people to wear their masks,” Holt said. “We all wear pants and we all wear shoes everyday, but at the end of the day if we all decided not to do that, there’s very little I could do about that either.”
McGough also pleaded for people to wear face masks.
“Keeping our economy open depends on each one of us,” McGough said. “Wearing a mask is a statement that you value not only the lives of others, but that you value your own. It is not a political statement.”