Color-Coded Risk Phases

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has developed the Oklahoma COVID-19 Alert System; a four-tiered risk measurement tool with corresponding color categories that identify the current COVID-19 risk level. This tool offers the public and local elected officials an easy way to recognize each county’s risk level.

If city commissioners approve a proposed emergency declaration Tuesday, the city of Enid would adopt the Oklahoma Department of Health’s color-coded, four-tiered COVID-19 alert system. 

The declaration, proposed by Ward 3 City Commissioner Ben Ezzell, recommends specific precautions, guidelines and violations at each OSDH phase for individuals, businesses and those at high risk of infection.

It also includes a public mask mandate when social distancing is not possible for those not at risk nor exempted due to health concerns.

The declaration would go into effect beginning 5 p.m. Friday.

A total of 32 Oklahoma counties, including Garfield County, are in the penultimate orange, or moderate-risk, phase, when there are more than 14.39 new daily cases per 100,000 population.

Garfield County, which was upgraded to orange Thursday along with 16 other counties, has a reported 19.23 cases per 100,000, according to the OSDH.

What would go into effect now

According to the proposed declaration, in the current orange phase, individuals shall:

• Engage in social distancing — staying 6 feet minimum apart when possible, keeping hands clean, staying home when sick, and using cloth face coverings in public settings when other measures are difficult to maintain;

• Practice symptom checks prior to team sport competitions or practices;

• Not attend large or public gatherings and venues unless the event includes social distancing safeguards and;

• Attend meetings or gatherings where over 50 people may be present by online streaming when possible.

Businesses shall:

• Operate dine-in services with elevated cleaning and hygiene measures;

• Continue flexible work arrangements with possible telework options;

• Implement strict public health protocols in high-contact situations 

Vulnerable individuals (anyone over 65 or who have serious underlying medical conditions) shall:

• Wear face coverings at all times in public;

• Limit travel to work;

• Restrict visits to friends or family;

• Limit physical interactions with other vulnerable people except those in your household;

• Not visit hospitals, nursing homes or residential care facilities;

• Not interact with symptomatic individuals or engage in close contact and;

• Not attend social gatherings outside the home.

Cimarron is only county in the Oklahoma in the system’s first phase, green (new normal), when there are less than 1.43 daily new cases per 100,000 population. Forty-four counties are in the second yellow (low-risk) phase, when the new daily cases per 100,000 population are between 1.43 and 14.39.

The proposal does not include guidelines for final red (high-risk) phase, but says the city of Enid will seek assistance from the state for a remediation plan and that the current phase measures would remain in effect.

As of Thursday, no counties are in the red phase, which occurs when there are more than 14.39 daily new cases and one of the four additional threshold factors are present. 

The four thresholds are: when the percent of ICU beds available statewide is less than 5%; the percent of medical surgery beds available statewide is 5%; the percent of ventilators statewide is less than 5%; and the average of days of personal protective equipment on hand at facilities across the state is fewer than five days. 

Enforcement and violations

Police officers and certified code inspectors would be responsible for enforcement of face covering, social distancing and large or public gathering violations, as specified in each phase. 

Those facing a violation will be exempt from citations if they produce a document stating that a doctor has verified wearing a face covering could impair or constitute a hazard to the individual. 

• For face-covering violations: Officers would offer a face covering or ask the person in possible violation to leave before issuing a citation for a violation.

• For social distancing and large or public gathering violations: Officers would inform the person or event organizer of the declaration requirements before issuing a citation.

Each violation would be considered a separate offense, and upon conviction, the penalty would not exceed $9 for the first and second offenses. Any subsequent violation would require an appearance in municipal court and a penalty not exceeding $100, including costs and state-mandated fees.

The city commission last month failed a proposed mask mandate ordinance, 5-2, in an emergency meeting that lasted over four hours after comments from the public, many of whom spoke against the mandate. The ordinance was the first a city in Oklahoma had voted down rather than discussing or lessening to recommendations.

The previous proposed mandate would have enforced a $100 fine penalty for the first offense, $200 for subsequent.

Enid Police Chief Brian O’Rourke called the ordinance “difficult to enforce” during the meeting.

Enid Public Schools' Board of Education on Tuesday voted to adopt the state board of education's recommended re-entry plan, which also was based off the health department's alert system. That plan, which would require masks for everyone in schools but allow students up to third grade to take them off in class, has not yet been updated since Garfield County was upgraded to orange phase on Thursday.

In Enid, 347 total cases, the 16th-highest in the state, have been reported, 92 of which are still active. Four people have died.

When commissioners voted against the previous mandate, Garfield County had 41 active cases out 138 total, with two deaths.

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Ewald is copy editor and city reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @oualexewald.

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Alexander? Send an email to aewald@enidnews.com.

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