Tahlequah city officials and medical professionals addressed questions and provided more information about COVID-19 protocols during a Facebook Live video on Saturday, March 21.
Mayor Sue Catron was joined by Ward 1 City Councilor Bree Long and Cherokee Elder Care Medical Director Dr. John Galdamez after a civil emergency was declared.
“A lot changed in a week's time; it’s amazing to think how short a period of time this has been,” said Catron. “We did declare an emergency for the city and our restaurants' dine-in facilities have been closed to the public, but those restaurants are continuing to serve our public through their drive-thru, carry-out, and delivery services.”
The mayor addressed rumors about the National Guard.
“They’re not standing by to close down our state borders right now,” Catron said. “They’re also not standing by to close down the roads coming into town, and we are not getting ready to shut down all of businesses and quarantine everyone in their homes.”
Catron said she is aware similar steps are being taken in certain parts of the country, but there is no plan to do so in Tahlequah.
“Just a reminder: Even when China locked down their community – grocery stores, pharmacies, those day-to-day businesses, those have to be there. So those will not being shutting down. We’re going to have access to those, no matter what happens through this,” Catron said.
Galdamez said Catron had asked him to represent the medical community and discuss facts regarding COVID-19.
“We are facing something that’s unprecedented in the world and in the United States, and here in some degree right now in Oklahoma,” Galdamez said. “We’re not suffering under it the way parts of the nation are.”
Galdamez reminded viewers that Oklahoma only started testing for the virus a week ago, and he still doesn't have results back from tests he’s already performed.
“Oklahoma’s been very, very far behind the curve on testing, so if we don’t test, we don’t identify, and if we don’t identify, then we have nice low numbers.” Galdamez said. “So I’m not saying we have great load of infection in this state; we just don’t know how much we have.”
The doctor said it would be prudent if everyone adopts the mindset that the numbers of those infected are higher, because there probably are more than what’s being confirmed until test results are complete.
As of Monday evening, March 23, there were still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cherokee County.
City parks and businesses are not closed as of now, and grocery stores and convenience stores must be open and available.
Catron said she had to address questions about funerals and other gatherings.
“Social distancing is what’s prudent, and we really discourage the gatherings of large numbers of people,” said Catron. “Sometimes that can’t be helped, but I want to remind you that you might want to consider having a delayed celebration of life that doesn’t put other people at risk.”
Long said she couldn’t stress enough the importance of social distancing and for residents to be mindful of those who have symptoms of the virus.
“The mayor mentioned that our parks and trails systems are open and available for public use,” Long said. “This is a great opportunity to get out and enjoy the fresh air.”