Because Muskogee County has had a confirmed case of COVID-19, Gov. Kevin Stitt has ordered all non-essential businesses to close down tomorrow and stay closed for 21 days to fight the spread of the virus.
The governor’s announcement was almost bereft of details about what businesses are considered “essential,” and provided no promise of any reimbursement to those businesses for the lost revenue of being closed for 21 days. He also did not address what would happen to employees who lose their jobs because of the forced closure.
Several types of businesses were specifically ordered to close:
- hair salons
- massage parlors
- tattoo parlors
Restaurants may stay open, but must close their dine-in areas, offering only curbside pickup or delivery.
Stitt said businesses must come into compliance by midnight tonight, but offered no details on how the order would be enforced, what penalties might be incurred for noncompliance or even what businesses other than those listed should close.
The list of essential infrastructure businesses linked by the governor include the chemical sector, commercial facilities, communications, critical manufacturing, dams, defense industry, emergency services, energy, financial services, food and agriculture, government facilities, healthcare and public health, information technology, nuclear reactors, materials and waste, transportation systems and water and wastewater.
However, grocery stores and pharmacies are also considered “essential” but do not fit in that list.
Muskogee Sheriff awaits legal opinion on enforcementMuskogee County Sheriff Terry Freeman said his office has no plans to enforce any business closures.
“We are about protecting our people’s constitutional rights,” Undersheriff Michael Mahan said. “We aren’t planning to force any businesses to close.”
Muskogee police have not yet responded to a request for comment.
CLARIFICATION: Mahan clarified his statement: “Until there is further guidance from the governor’s office and the district attorney as to what criminal law is being violated, we have no legal authority to shut down any business.”