Shawnee City Commission: COVID-19 sparks mayor's call for state of emergency

Vicky O. Misa

In response to declarations of a state of emergency on the national and state levels, Mayor Richard Finley followed suit with his own declaration at Monday's Shawnee City Commission meeting.

Due to the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) nationally and within close proximity to Pottawatomie County and the city, beginning March 17 through April 6, all special event permits will be revoked and no new permits will be issued for gatherings on city-owned and operated properties. In addition, gatherings of 10 or more people on city-owned and operated properties are prohibited during the emergency period.

The City Commission, Shawnee Municipal Authority, and Shawnee Airport Authority meetings will not have a gathering limit in order to allow for public input. Citizen Advisory board meetings, Municipal Court and utility cut-offs will be temporarily suspended during the emergency period of March 17 through April 6.

“This declaration can be terminated, amended or extended,” Finley said.

Virus update

Pottawatomie County Emergency Management Director Don Lynch offered an update on the effect COVID-19 — a new strain of coronavirus — is having on communities everywhere.

He said the global crisis could potentially get worse before it gets better, as health care experts continue gathering as much information as they can about the outbreak.

“While the situation will go on for a period of time,” Lynch said, “the next two weeks are critical.”

The goal is to slow the spread down enough to keep the peak from getting too high, he said.

“As of 2:30 p.m. (Monday), there are 10 positive cases in the state,” he said. “There have been 174 tests processed that were negative.”

That number, he said, would likely go up.

The counties affected so far in the state are Jackson (1), Canadian (1), Cleveland (1), Kay (1), Payne (1), Oklahoma (2), and Tulsa (3).

Lynch said there are several ways to combat the spread: • Know the symptoms

• Stay home

• Call health care providers first — do not just show up at a clinic, emergency room or office

• Social distancing — stay six feet from others

• Limit visitors

• Don't touch your face

• Wash your hands thoroughly and often

• No handshaking

• Don't cough or sneeze onto others or surfaces

Lynch said while generally having a 72-hour disaster plan at home is a wise move, in this case, keeping a two-week stock of medications, food, water and other supplies on-hand is better.

“Check on your neighbors,” he said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has issued the authorization by some facilities to restrict visitors as they deem it necessary to protect their residents, Lynch said. They are:

• Nursing facilities

• Assisted living centers

• Residential care facilities

• Adult day care centers

• Intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities

• Hospitals

• Other medical facilities or congregate-living settings which house or serve vulnerable populations

• City and county detention facilities (jails)

Lynch offered a reminder that someone can have the virus even if he/she doesn't feel sick or show symptoms.

On the economic side of things, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering guidelines and resources on its website, at

Put in place Monday, a new reporting portal is collecting information on the negative impact the outbreak is having on small businesses; it can be accessed at

Lynch said the two best resources residents have available to them are the CDC website, at, and the State Health Department's hotline, at 1(877) 215-8336.

This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to the news-star at