MEDICINE PARK — On March 31, the Medicine Park City Council convened to discuss the town’s ongoing preventative measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 among the community. The emergency meeting was a response to what Mayor Jennifer Ellis called an “inundation” of visitors over the weekend. In the end, Ellis and the council voted to issue a shelter-in-place order for Medicine Park.
With so much on lockdown right now in the surrounding areas, many people are flocking to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, according to Ellis. Those same visitors then flood into Medicine Park.
“It looked like a festival weekend we were so packed,” Ellis said. “And we don’t need that right now.”
With the shelter-in-place order, all of the public parks in Medicine Park are now closed including the popular Bath Lake area.
“The areas where people are allowed to fish are still open to fishing, and you can still walk along the creek walk as long as you are observing social distancing,” Ellis said.
The order effectively confines residents to their homes with the exception of those leaving to conduct essential business or shopping. On April 1, the day after the order was issued, the streets of medicine park were quiet. Restaurants were still open to carryout, but inside the lights were off and the chairs were put away.
In an effort to help spread the news about the order, Ellis enlisted the Medicine Park Volunteer Fire Department, the police department and others to go door-to-door providing residents with a packet of information explaining the dos and don’ts.
Andy Anderson, a Medicine Park volunteer firefighter, was making the rounds helping to inform residents about the new order. But beyond that, Anderson said he was letting people know that they were all in this together.
“We are going to all of the people out here in this area to let them know they aren’t alone,” Anderson said. “We’re doing this for the community.”
As a tourist town, Medicine Park relies on visitors to thrive. Making the decision to order the shelter-in-place was challenging, Ellis said. Weighing the economic cost against the personal health risks was no easy task.
“It’s a terrible situation,” Ellis said. “Ultimately we have to do what is right to protect the health of our citizens and our visitors.”
In an effort to relieve some of the financial stress on the town’s small businesses, the Medicine Park Economic Development Authority recently announced that current loan holders would be given a forbearance. The authority also created a short-term loan program with a 1 percent interest rate and no payments for six months.
“I absolutely believe that we will come through this,” Ellis said. “It’s going to be a long process here in Medicine Park, just like it is everywhere in the country, but we will absolutely come through.”