On Tuesday evening, March 24, local officials decided to impose a partial lockdown and "shelter-at-home" order for Cherokee County, allowing only "essential" businesses to continue operating. That dovetails Gov. Kevin Stitt's earlier announcement that the 19 counties with confirmed coronavirus cases needed to enforce stricter measures.

What neither Stitt nor the Oklahoma State Department of Health knew at the time, though, was that Cherokee County now has its own case of COVID-19, and the victim was admitted at Northeastern Health System. Add that to the two known cases from Adair County - one of whom purportedly was employed in Cherokee County - and it's easy to see why area officials made the decision they did.

In a nutshell, only "essential" businesses can stay open, but as District 2 Cherokee County Commissioner Mike Brown has pointed out, that covers a lot of ground in Cherokee County. A fairly comprehensive list is elsewhere in this edition of TDP, but questions will still remain, as will gray areas. But the idea is to keep people in contact with as few others as possible during this crisis, to mitigate the spread of the disease.

The reaction has been mixed - in many cases, grateful, and in others, hostile. Both attitudes are understandable, given the potential outcomes.

Many business owners on the "non-essential" list fear they will not be able to bounce back after a long closure. The fear is justified, even if rationally, they know few people will be patronizing their establishments at this time, anyway. There's also the likelihood that they will have to lay off their employees, because few small businesses - and even many larger ones - aren't flush enough to continue full pay for untold weeks when their revenue streams have dried up.

But those who are more concerned with the health of the area's population than a robust economy should not be denigrated, either. After all, if a huge swatch of the public has become incapacitated by illness, these victims won't be able to "shop locally," despite what business leaders might hope for. The more people who are in general circulation, the higher the risk of infection - and the very lives of many vulnerable people are truly threatened by COVID-19. This includes the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, but in fact, it could be anyone at all.

No one can be sure what the future holds with this disease; everyone is forging this new and frightening path together. We can't know for certain whether current protocols will be enough to slow the pandemic, or whether those regulations are a bit over the top. But it's truly ironic when people who touted themselves as "pro-lifers" a month or so ago are now demanding unfettered access to every product, service and institution in the land, or threatening to cross county borders to get what they want.

It's better to be safe than sorry. Let's give our local elected leaders a break, and recognize they're trying to do the best that they can to ensure the safety of our community. Most of them are willing to listen to the concerns of constituents, but the hatred a few are aiming toward them is not productive.


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