The City of Lawton is lifting its Civil Emergency Proclamation for the COVID-19 pandemic at midnight, although State of Oklahoma regulations will remain in effect.

Mayor Stan Booker and Mayor Pro Tem Jay Burk signed the order Tuesday, specifying the Civil Emergency Proclamation that had been set to remain in effect through May 31 will, instead, expire at midnight. Expiration means that City of Lawton mandates set into place for the COVID-19 pandemic will end, and the mayor and mayor pro tem no longer will be in charge of city emergency operations.

Lawton City Code has long designated the mayor as the administrator in charge during states of civil emergency, which Booker originally declared on March 16 as Lawton and other communities in Oklahoma began dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. City Council members later amended that code to specify the mayor and mayor pro tem, acting in concert, would make decisions and issue emergency proclamations.

That ends at midnight, although the latest amendment still specifies that Lawton will remain under the dictates of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Open Up and Recover Safely Plan. Booker, Burk and the council agreed in late April that Lawton will follow Stitt’s staged plan, which sets three distinct phases for the reopening of businesses and activities in Oklahoma, as long as new cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations remained at manageable levels.

Stitt said last week Oklahoma’s per-capita cases and hospitalizations continue to decline, even as the number of tests increases, clearing the state to begin Phase 2 on May 15. Phase 3, which is expected to lessen more restrictions, will begin June 1, as long as COVID-19 numbers remain manageable.

The amendment from Booker and Burk specifies that state and federal rules and laws remain in effect in Lawton, but Lawton no longer is under a local emergency order.

“Local hospitalization is at a minimum and the state’s hospitalization rate continues to decline, so we are ending the civil emergency with the signing of the latest order,” Booker said, in a statement. “We intend to fall in line with the governor’s plan in full and strongly encourage all citizens to continue monitoring this situation and following appropriate safety protocols for the safety of themselves and their families.”

Booker said business owners and applicable managing organizations are encouraged to adhere to additional safety measures, as deemed for their establishments. Minimum state requirements on things such as sanitation protocols, occupancy limits and social distancing still must be followed. Regulations are available through the City of Lawton website, lawtonok.gov, under its COVID-19 icon; or through the state at okcommerce.gov/covid19/ours-plan/.

City officials also continue to encourage residents to continue to adhere to safety protocols, including a “stay at home” practice for those over the age of 65 or who are members of vulnerable populations; maintaining social distancing of at least 6 feet; and wearing masks while in public. City officials said businesses may impose additional safety rules, as long as they do not violate city codes and state/federal laws.

City administrators also said they are studying a policy put into place with the original declaration of emergency in March: suspension of the practice of disconnecting water service for nonpayment. Officials said that, for the time being, no residents will have water service disconnected due to nonpayment of city utility bills, but those residents still are responsible for paying their bills and keeping their utility accounts in good standing.

Council members indicated last week the city would develop policies to pursue payment of those outstanding utility bills, but also were looking at options to help some residents with their debt.

Arrangements for payments may be made by contacting the city’s utility services division, 581-3308.

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