Law enforcement officials are urging the public to take safety measures seriously, and offered comforting words to those who are anxious during the COVID-19 outbreak.
On March 25, Cherokee County Sheriff Jason Chennault posted on Facebook to address those concerned about having to stay in their homes amid OK. Gov. Kevin Stitt's "safer at home" executive order.
"My deputies, investigators, administrative staff, and I have taken many telephone calls, text messages, and social media messages today from concerned residents who believe they will be forced to remain in their homes and will be arrested if they are out in public," said Chennault. "This belief is absolutely incorrect. You will not be forced to remain in your homes and you will not be arrested for being out in public. There are no restrictions on shopping for food and participating in needed and necessary commerce."
Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King also took to Facebook in a live video to reassure residents that officers are still out patrolling and enforcing the law.
"We're still addressing each and every call at the police department. We may be calling you on the phone instead of coming in person, but we are addressing each and every call we receive," said King. "We can't eliminate our contact with the public, unfortunately. We can reduce some, but we can't eliminate."
King said TPD is rolling out a new schedule that will ensure officers are not contaminated or exposed to COVID-19.
"We will have a full staff of officers every day here with plans in place in case someone gets exposed," said King. "Our call volume right now is down overall, but what we're seeing is more and more domestic disputes."
King said he's analyzing data every day and anticipates a rise in property crimes with people being laid off work, stuck at home, or just being bored.
"We're still arresting people when they need arrested, and the jails are open and there are some stipulations in the county jail, but we have our own jail and we're housing people here," said King.
Both King and Chennault said their departments are here for those who need them, and urged residents to listen to professionals and to follow their guidelines.
"My plea to you is to limit your time in public as much as possible. This virus is aggressive, and it is easily passed from person to person, with as little as a sneeze, a cough, or just touching an infected surface," Chennault said. "The best way to limit your exposure is to simply limit your exposure. Stay home, stay clean and be careful."
King, Chennault, and many others must continue going to work in the midst of the COVID-19 threat. The chief urged citizens to continue safety measures to keep the virus from coming into homes and infecting whole families.
"It's easy right now to give in to worry. Most of us are dealing with a situation that we have never seen before, and I don't mean just COVID-19, but the pandemic itself," said King. "Right now, we can't afford to be shaken as individuals or as a community. We've got to remain calm and find peace and follow those instructions that are being given by our leaders."