Beginning Friday, Stillwater moves into the second phase of opening businesses and public facilities. Mayor Will Joyce signed an amendment to the city’s emergency declaration Wednesday allowing the few businesses still closed to resume operations while exercising precautions.

Stillwater will now allow all retail businesses, restaurants, bars, gyms, health clubs, entertainment venues, personal care businesses and churches to be open to the public.

Enhanced disinfection requirements are in place and social distancing standards limit the capacity of restaurant dining rooms and other gathering places to 50% or enough to allow six feet of space between tables.

The amendment also opens city-owned baseball, softball and soccer fields for team practices. Playground equipment, pavilions and splash pads located in city parks will remain closed for the time being.

Joyce cited Stillwater’s lack of new confirmed new cases of COVID-19 over the past three weeks and total number of infections compared to its population as part of his reasoning.

He credited the community for responding to prevent the disease’s spread.

“Stillwater ranks 9th in population statewide, but only 34th in terms of confirmed cases,” he wrote. “Why? It's way too early to say for sure, but quick action by OSU, the City, our local churches and businesses, and the residents of our community have certainly helped us avoid more widespread infection.”

For the same reason, Joyce warned the community against letting its guard down.

“It’s not time to declare victory or let down our guard,” he wrote. “There's no magic immunity here in Stillwater. There is still no vaccine nor proven treatment, and while testing has become more available, there are still backlogs and delays. Some communities in our state, big and small, are seeing increased new cases, and local outbreaks can grow very quickly. We must keep working together to protect each other.

“It has been good to see a mostly smooth Phase One of our recovery. We're not back to normal, but stores and restaurants are serving patrons again, and many shaggy heads (including my own) have been trimmed and styled. As far as I've seen, businesses are doing well at taking the proper precautions and keeping their customers safe.”

Stillwater will follow Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to move the state into Phase 2 of his Open Up and Recover Safely plan, Joyce said. Most of what Stillwater already has in place will not change on Friday.

The biggest changes are allowing bars to open with occupancy limits and allowing youth sports leagues to hold practices.

Gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed under the revised declaration.

Joyce reminded people that increased activity around town means increased opportunity to transmit infection. He asked people to continue being careful and safe.

“We are easing back into social activities slowly, and we will continue to keep a close eye on the spread of coronavirus,” he wrote. “Each of us should embrace our responsibility to protect our neighbors: wear a face covering when around other people, avoid crowds and minimize personal contact, wash your hands frequently, cover your coughs and sneezes. You could be carrying the coronavirus right now without any symptoms. Do everything you can to keep from infecting someone else.”

Key provisions of the amended emergency declaration include:

  • Gatherings of 50 or more people are still prohibited.
  • Residents 65 or older and those with compromised immune systems must continue to shelter in place.
  • Athletic field in city parks are open for practices only.
  • Splash pads and shared facilities like pavilions and playgrounds remain closed.
  • Face coverings are still strongly encouraged for all people entering businesses. Employees have separate requirements.

Violating the emergency order can result in a penalty of $500 per violation, although police have been encouraged to educate and warn the public before taking enforcement action.

The amended emergency declaration expires at 11:59 p.m. on June 15 unless extended, rescinded, superseded or amended in writing.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

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