The following statement was issued today by Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
“The Covid-19/coronavirus represents a true threat to public health, and efforts to mitigate its spread have required some actions that were previously unthinkable. But even in the midst of unprecedented action, an important balance must be preserved: Action must be taken to reduce public spread of this virus, but it must be done in a way that minimizes the damage to people’s lives. While many businesses and workers can do their jobs from home, that is not true for all Oklahomans, and care must be taken to allow Oklahomans to continue working as much as possible.
“Many working families cannot afford the loss of income that will come with government-forced closure of their place of employment. For those Oklahomans, the promise of a $1,000 check from the federal government and larger unemployment checks will be no substitute for a job.
“Early this past week, as things began to escalate, I ate at a local restaurant. All present observed social distancing techniques. Our server was worried. The server’s most pressing fear was that our group’s tip might be the last she received. If her employer was forced to close, her life was going to get very hard, very quickly.
“We must not forget working families. While those who can work from home can do so, there are many people working in jobs where that is not possible, and we cannot shrug off the impact of government action on their lives. Especially when social distancing, other health guidance and innovation can be taken to allow people to continue in their jobs with minimal chance of spreading the virus.
“In the United States, we have generally achieved better results from a bottom-up approach than top-down edicts. Local communities and citizens need the flexibility to determine the best course of action for their area based on local conditions. The steps required to address the Covid-19 challenge in Los Angeles may not be the same steps required in Edmond or Catoosa.
“To their credit, policymakers like Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, the State of Oklahoma, other state governors—from both political parties—have allowed local communities to determine the best course of action to deal with the virus. And many communities have allowed business owners to innovate and to operate in a way that reduces the chance of virus exposure while still keeping their business functioning, such as restaurants that have switched to curbside service. There are voices who want to order the closure of all “nonessential” businesses for an undetermined amount of time. They want to put government in the position of determining which businesses and livelihoods are “nonessential.” But every job is essential to the person who needs a paycheck. Protection of citizen health is not incompatible with work ethic and business innovation. In reality, the two go hand-in-hand.”