Taking it to go: Senior citizens adapt to curbside service at Project Heart

Project Heart diner Rex Hayes maintains social distance in this photo from March 2020 by using a respirator and riding his bike through the program's drive-through pick up lane like a Pony Express rider. Stillwater Community Center staff member Tony Wright waits with the hand-off. One year later, Project Heart is still doing curbside meal delivery. Michelle Charles/Stillwater News Press

Something we can’t see has fundamentally changed the way many of us live and work over the past 12-13 months as COVID-19 swept across the globe and across the U.S.

Like the rest of the nation and the State of Oklahoma, Stillwater has been operating under some type of emergency declaration since March of 2020.

Sunday marked one year from the date the first case was confirmed in Payne County and Monday was the first anniversary of Stillwater’s first emergency declaration.


The virus moved quickly.

Stillwater’s first emergency declaration was issued just 10 weeks after the World Health Organization first picked up a media statement from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission about cases of a type of viral pneumonia in Wuhan, China, according to a COVID-19 timeline from the WHO.

On Jan. 9, the WHO reported that Chinese authorities had determined the outbreak was caused by a novel coronavirus, a type of virus that causes severe respiratory symptoms.

By Jan. 30, there were confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. and in Europe and the WHO had declared it a public health emergency of international concern, its highest alert level.

On Jan. 31, President Donald Trump declared a Public Health Emergency for the U.S.

On Feb. 11, the disease caused by the virus was given the name COVID-19.

On March 6, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Oklahoma.

On March 13, President Donald Trump declared states of emergency under the Stafford Act and the National Emergencies Act. 

Stillwater timeline

March 15:

Health authorities announce the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Payne County. At this time, there were a total of seven cases in the state, confined to large urban centers.

Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce issues an emergency declaration closing cancelling large events, closing city-owned recreational facilities. Municipal court dockets were cancelled and most board or committee meetings were cancelled. Measures to increase distance between patrons were encouraged for restaurants, bars, gyms and exercise facilities.

March 16:

Gov. Kevin Stitt declares a state of emergency in all 77 counties due to the spread of COVID-19. 

Stillwater’s mayor issues an emergency declaration allowing the City Manager to temporarily modify rules, regulations and contracts regarding employee scheduling and leave and provisions regarding personal grooming.

Project Heart senior nutrition program closes due to concerns about COVID-19. It reopens the next day to deliver meals curbside.

March 23:

Stillwater’s mayor issues an emergency declaration closing businesses identified as non-essential, like beauty parlors, health clubs, spas, tattoo parlors and nail salons and requiring retail establishments to require a minimum of six feet between patrons in lines and use measures to encourage distancing while shopping. Gatherings of 10 or more people were prohibited.

March 30:

Stillwater’s mayor issued an emergency declarations requiring Stillwater residents to shelter in place, only leaving their homes for essential activities or to operate an essential business.

April 10:

Joyce issues an emergency declaration strongly encouraging the use of face coverings when in contact with people from outside your household. Planning Commission meetings and board of adjustment meetings were allowed to convene after May 1.

May 1:

Stillwater makes national news as the mayor rescinds a mask requirement for businesses after stores report their employees are taking abuse and threats are made.

May 15:

A new emergency declaration is issued prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people and requiring medically vulnerable residents and people over age 65 to continue sheltering in place unless engaged in an essential activity. Non-essential businesses previously ordered to close were allowed to reopen while using emergency procedures and standards for employees and customers.

June 1:

Another emergency declaration is issued repealing the prohibition on gatherings but discouraging large gatherings when social distance can’t be maintained. Medically vulnerable residents and people over age 65 are encouraged to continue sheltering in place but are not required to do so. Specific requirements for businesses and services are no longer required but physical distancing and mitigation is still recommended. City Hall and other municipal facilities reopen to the public. The community center and public library reopen. The Senior Activity Center remains closed until further notice and Project Heart continues curbside delivery of meals for senior citizens.

The public swimming pool at Couch Park is not opened for the season.

June 8:

Stillwater has recorded 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

June 29:

The emergency declaration of June 1 is extended until July 15 due to a spike in positive cases of COVID-19.

July 9:

The Stillwater City Council approves an ordinance requiring face coverings be worn in public.

July 9 and 30:

June 1 emergency proclamation is extended.

Aug. 17: 

Students at Oklahoma State University return to in-person instruction. A video recorded the previous weekend shows young people without masks packing the dance floor of a bar on Washington Street.

Aug. 18:

A new state of emergency is declared due to community spread of COVID-19. Limitations are put on bar operations, including one-half capacity. Some parts of City Hall remain closed, the Senior Activity Center remains closed and Project Heart continues curbside delivery of meals for senior citizens.

Aug. 31:

COVID-19 cases in Stillwater increase to 276 active cases, sixth highest in the state with a total of 940 positive cases reported.

Sept. 28:

Stillwater Medical Center adopts its surge plan to increase capacity and deal with a spike in COVID-19 patients.

Nov. 30:

An emergency declaration is enacted that requires six feet of distancing and 50% capacity in bars and restaurants. Access to certain offices in City Hall is once again allowed. People entering City Hall are required to wear masks. Parks and facilities are open and residents are told they use them at their own risk. League sports are told to adopt and enforce social distancing protocols.

Dec. 19:

Emergency procedures under the previous declaration are extended.

Dec. 21:

Stillwater Medical Center begin converting a conference room as a patient care area to handle overflow COVID-l9 patients.

Feb. 24:

The City’s ordinance requiring face coverings in public is extended through May 25 by the City Council.

Feb. 25:

Stillwater has recorded 5,948 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 23 deaths 

Feb. 26:

A revised emergency declaration is strongly encouraging bars and restaurants to maintain six feet of distance between patrons and setting limits on the number of people at a table. Patrons are required to wear face coverings except when eating or drinking. Retail businesses and churches are also strongly encouraged to continue social distancing.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

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