Updates with new information, 12:15 p.m., 03-23
MIAMI — The Miami City Council passed an emergency ordinance Saturday morning related to the impending threat of COVID-19.
The ordinance imposes temporary restrictions within the City of Miami and takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
Among the items covered in Ordinance 2020-20 are the suspension of various utility rate hikes, authorizing emergency purchases and contracts, prohibiting events or gatherings on city-owned property, recommending limitations on other social gatherings, providing a termination date, providing severability, providing for conflicting provisions and establishing an emergency.
“We think it had to be done,” Miami Mayor Rudy Schultz said. “The potential cost of inaction was too great. Is it going to be a significant inconvenience to some of our citizens and many of our local, small businesses, yes? We understand that and appreciate those concerns. But the cost of inaction was potentially too great to not take these steps.”
Miami city officials and staff were part of a statewide conference call that included Sen. James Lankford, Tulsa mayor G.T. Bynum, Oklahoma City mayor David Holt and Norman mayor Breea Clark.
Lankford and the three mayors provided insight in their decision to make the call for an emergency declaration in their respective cities.
Schultz said initial plans were to just act on the declaration at Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled meeting.
“But after hearing from the mayors in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman, it just drove home the fact that we had to act sooner,” he said. “This may be the first emergency meeting I have ever participated in 13 years on the council. But it was that important.”
All four of the main participants encouraged others on the call to consider declaring civil emergencies at the earliest possible time.
“They are roughly a week ahead of us on the infection curve,” Schultz said. “They were sharing with us the things that had they known, the steps they would have taken and advising us to take those.
“Blunting the curve is what its all about.”
It is highly recommended that those in a high-risk group to self-quarantine “until better testing capabilities are available.”
Schultz stressed, “we are not sending people out to arrest people because they are going to the grocery store. We are not violating people’s rights. At this point, we are asking you that if you are in a high risk group that you self-quarantine. That is all we asking for.”
As has been the case in numerous other locations, events where there are more than 10 people that use a city-owned or city-operated facility or property are banned. Violators can be charged with trespassing.
The ordinance covers a wide spectrum of businesses that are to be closed.
Part 1 of Section 1 of the ordinance covers “Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other places of public accommodation offering food and beverage are closed for dine-in customers and guests and for on-premises consumption, are restricted and limited to curbside, drive-thru, takeout and delivery services, excluding institutional or in-house food cafeterias that serve residents, employees, and clients of businesses, child care facilities, hospitals, and long-term care facilities.
Part 2 says “The following commercial establishments and places of public accommodation shall be and are hereby closed to ingress, egress, use, and occupancy by members of the public:
“a. Bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, clubs, and other places of public accommodation offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
“b. Hookah bars, cigar bars, and vaping lounges offering their products for on premises consumption.
“c. Theaters, cinemas, indoor and outdoor performance venues, and museums.
“d. Hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, day spas and tanning salons.
“e. Gymnasiums, fitness centers, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities, exercise studios, bowling alleys, dance studios, karate and other martial arts studios and spas.
“f. Amusement parks, arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, indoor climbing facilities, skating rinks, trampoline parks, and other similar recreational or entertainment facilities.”
City officials will be working with restaurateurs who do not have a drive-through lane or adequate curbside service parking to set up alternatives.
“We want to work with you, to support you and keep your businesses as viable as possible during this time,” Schultz said during the meeting.
The ordinance doesn't prohibit an employee, contractor, vendor, or supplier of a place of public accommodation from entering, exiting, using or occupying that place of public accommodation in their professional capacity.
Most area churches have announced that they are cancelling Sunday services for the next couple weeks.
Exceptions are businesses that offer food and beverage for off-premises consumption, including take-out and/or delivery dining, grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, pharmacies, drug stores, and food pantries, other than those portions of the place of public accommodation subject to the requirements of section, health care facilities, child care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities, juvenile justice facilities, crisis shelters, soup kitchens, or similar institutions.
Utility rate increases that were to kick in on April 1 have been pushed back to June 3 and demand changes from winter to summer rates have been postponed from May 1 to June 3.
Utility penalties also are being suspended until June 3 and all penalties assessed on utility bills that were due from March 17.
“We are stressing that if people are having trouble paying that bill, contact us now and we can work out a payment plan,” Kruithof said. “Even if they do have a relatively large bill, they can pay it over time. We are not going to be expecting a large lump sum in two or three months. But they need to get with us so we can establish a plan.”
Utility payments still can be made by mail, by using credit or debit cards at First National Bank, Security Bank or Welch State Bank drive-through lanes (which remain open), or with a new option: by phone.
As of midday Monday, according to information compiled by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, there were 32 cases in the Oklahoma City-Norman area and five in Tulsa County.
Statewide, the OSDH reports 67 positive in-state tests, two positive out-of-state 669 negative, 11 hospitalizations and two deaths.
Fourteen of Oklahoma’s 77 counties have reported one or more COVID-19 cases.
The state health department website — updated constantly — is https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov/ and a hotline is 877-215-8336.
For those who want to watch the video of the meeting go to miamiokla.net and click on government.