Playgrounds closed in Lawton

Play equipment, such as that contained in Playground in the Park in Elmer Thomas Park, are now off limits, as the City of Lawton works to contain the spread of COVID-19. Playgrounds are being closed because virus can live on surfaces. But, city officials said city parks themselves remain open, although visitors are reminded to maintain the 6-foot social distance from others and keep social gatherings to 10 people or less.

The City of Lawton has announced an addition to its essential businesses list, as officials continue to refine the process of controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

As of Thursday, liquor stores within the city limits were added to the list of businesses that may remain open in Lawton, as long as they continue to maintain the 6-foot social distancing recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control. Those stores join a broad list of 16 other categories that detail businesses that will remain open for the duration of the Civil Emergency Proclamation originally issued by Mayor Stan Booker on March 16. Under that recent amendment, any business that does not fit the definition of essential is to be closed.

Under Thursday’s amendment, liquor stores may allow patrons to enter their facilities, but curbside and delivery services are encouraged (similar to the drive-through, pickup and delivery options allowed for restaurants). Liquor stores still fall under the social distancing directive and are required to post signage detailing those restrictions.

And, to clarify earlier provisions, parks and lakes remain open, but playgrounds located within city parks are closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by touching hard surfaces. For parks, social distancing is required and there may be no more than 10 people gathered in a recreational setting. In addition, west Lawton’s Thunder Court is closed to play, as the city encourages residents to avoid close contract sports.

And, because Lawton City Hall remains closed, discounts that senior citizens may receive on their city utility bills will carry over while the emergency proclamation is in place. Participants typically reapply for those discounts in April and May; those who already have the discounts will receive details after the civil emergency expires for directions on renewal.

The stricter requirements were put into place after the City Council voted Tuesday to allow Booker to issue an amended civil proclamation. Although Comanche County Health Department confirmed two cases of COVID-19 in Comanche County on Wednesday (that had officially risen to three confirmed cases, as of Thursday morning), council members said they would have put the directive in place even without that confirmation to stay ahead of the curve.

Gov. Kevin Stitt, in an announcement Monday, said that any county with a confirmed COVID-19 case would be subject to Safer at Home directives, which means only essential businesses may remain open.

City administrators said that as they continue to monitor and evaluate information about COVID-19, additional clarifications and implementations will be announced.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) we had 247 COVID-19 deaths in the United States,” Booker said, in a statement. “That is just a number if you say it fast. But when it happens here, we will know these individuals on a first-name basis. They will be our neighbors, our friends, our family members. It is imperative that citizens take personal responsibility during this crisis in order to protect life. Stay home unless leaving for essential errands or services. Limiting community movement is how we beat this disease.”

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