Officials with the city of Tahlequah and Cherokee County ordered a "shelter-in-place" partial lockdown beginning Wednesday, March 25 at 11:59 p.m. after Northeastern Health System confirmed a positive case of COVID-19 on Tuesday, March 24.
Gov. Kevin Stitt had ordered all non-essential businesses in counties with confirmed COVID-19 cases to close for 21 days starting at that time. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, non-essential businesses are those that provide items or services that are socially driven.
Officials said since Cherokee County is home to many government services, the lockdown will not be much more restrictive than the one they ordered last week.
"Personal appearance" businesses like hair salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, and body piercing shops are considered to be non-essential. Establishments for entertaining – such as movie theaters, bowling alleys, sporting events, bars, clubs and concert venues – will be closed.
The Department of Homeland Security released a guidance list that identified essential critical infrastructure workers. The list encouraged employees to work from home when possible and to delay non-mandatory activities.
“When continuous remote work is not possible, businesses should enlist strategies to reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease,” the guide said.
Workers in health care and public health, law enforcement, public safety, first responders, food and agriculture, energy, water and wastewater, transportation and logistics, public works, critical manufacturing, and financial services are considered essential.
So are grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, restaurants (curbside or delivery only), auto repair, services banks, hospitals, walk-in health facilities, veterinarians, research and laboratory services, newspaper/media, airports, and funeral homes.
Several area residents asked for specifics about "gray area" services. A swimming pool service, for example, might not fall under the restriction since pools can have therapeutic value, and a service person would be at a private residence. That would also apply to plumbers and HVAC services, as well as electricians. It would further cover lawn care services and other work than can be done by one or two people, at private homes. While auto service repair and tire shops could be deemed essential, auto body detailing would not be.
As far as gun and ammo shops, State Rep. Matt Meredith D-Tahlequah, said he believes those shops can remain open, given that they are considered services to augment public safety and personal protection.
The Cherokee County Commissioners gathered with other officials in a "call of the chair meeting" to discuss COVID-19 Wednesday morning. The courthouse is still on partial lockdown with limited access to the public.
District 2 Commissioner Mike Brown said most of Tahlequah is going to remain open, but with very limited access.
Day cares and child care facilities are essential and will remain open, but commissioners said if parents are able to work from home, their children need to also be at home so day cares are not overwhelmed.
“If you’re supplying a need to an essential employee who has to go to work and who has a child, then that makes you essential to that employee,” said District 3 Commissioner Clif Hall.
For a full list of businesses considered essential, visit https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce. Anyone with questions can contact a member of the task force or the Tahlequah Daily Press, and staffers will try to find the answer.