Residents urged to avoid large crowds; local businesses adapting but feeling financial woes

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Residents urged to avoid large crowds; local businesses adapting but feeling financial woes

Fri, 03/20/2020 - 14:40
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The fear of COVID-19 has taken over.

Schools are closed. Churches are offering online services and businesses are suffering.

In Canadian County, two cases of the virus have been reported. City, business and religious officials are working to prevent the spread, which occurs between humans, while hoping for the best and trying to keep calm. 

Most stores haven’t closed, but events are being canceled. With the national, state and city declarations of emergency, citizens are being urged to stay inside or at least refrain from congregating in large groups.

Positive words calling for common sense have come from the local Chamber of Commerce and El Reno Main Street. 

Karen Nance, executive director of the El Reno Chamber, said people should follow what the officials are saying.

“Keep following what they’re asking us to do,” she said, referencing the hand-washing guidelines and the recommendation to avoid large groups. 

Nance said these times will be testing and especially for local businesses. Even so, she recommends optimism and remaining calm. 

“The worst thing we can do is panic and fear. I pray that this passes.”

Shana Ford, Main Street director, said businesses staying open are disinfecting surfaces and taking precautions. She said if businesses close to in-store traffic, several will offer products online.

“This is going to be hard on our small businesses,” said Ford. “But we can still support them. If you choose to stay home, shop online. Our businesses have websites and Facebook pages.”

Calling the pandemic a “double whammy,” Ford said many businesses have already been adversely affected by the collapse of the oil industry. Main Street may hold special events such as the Lollies, or Ladies Night Out, over the Internet. 

Tom Ross of Ross Seed said that businesses like his are essential to the public. The family-owned operation plans on staying open.

“We are going to be here until this thing passes,” Ross said. “This will pass, and we're all in this together.”

Ross is offering curbside service. The store will also deliver items with a total value of $25 or more.

The business is taking it day-by-day, with Ross saying upcoming garden seminars may be held online and that the annual Plant Day may be stretched into several days to limit large gatherings. 

Paula Cooper, owner of Cocobella’s Gifts, said she is seeing only a third of her usual number of customers. Her business already offers online shopping, and it too may switch to that alone if necessary. She said she already had many bridal registries and baby shower gifts planned before the virus hit. She will deliver these items across a 15-mile radius if necessary. As of now, Cocobella’s doors are still open. 

“We are just ready for this to be over with,” said Cooper. “Bigger businesses will survive, but the smaller businesses are what’s really gonna be affected.”

Despite all the chaos, people are still working to take care of themselves. Gyms like Absolute Fitness and Tribe Gym are still hosting classes, though they are limiting the number of clients for each session.

Dallion Broomfield, owner of Absolute Fitness, said that he is following CDC guidelines and continuing to keep everything sanitary.

“Our Absolute Fitness family is doing our best to keep everything clean and safe,” he said. “We are practicing social distancing with our classes.”

The changes in the gym classes started on Monday. Broomfield said the business is taking the situation week by week.

Each session at Absolute Fitness is limited to five people. Tribe Gym has increased its classes from five per day to eight, with 10 people in each session including the instructor.

Concerts and entertainment events have been postponed for American Legion Post 34, VFW Post 382 and Vices Bar and Venue. The bars are remaining open for now. Vices is limiting patrons to 10 at a time, and they are working on a plan to live-stream music acts to people at home. 

The Stack Bar in Calumet has been hosting concerts, but will re-evaluate the situation week-by-week. The Stack is also offering curbside pickup for food items. Starting Monday, they will deliver food within a 10-mile radius for a small fee, with no fee for orders of more than $20. Customers can order through Facebook. 

The El Reno Community Theatre has been shuttered for the time being. But the local B&B Movie Theatre, Reno Cinema 8, is staying open. B&B’s website states that each theater is only selling half of the seats for each showing in order to limit crowd size.  

Restaurants have also taken action. Our Glass in downtown El Reno is not allowing dine-in service, but is offering to bring food to customers in front of the business. Co-owner Colin Forsey said they had cones and a sign set up to indicate this service, but the police department forced them to take down the set-up because they did not have a permit. However, the curbside food is still available to those who wish to call in and order. 

Forsey said all the downtown businesses must stick together.

“We’ve all got to band together and help each other,” he said. “I hope the community will come together and respond. We are down here pretty much on our own.”

If it becomes necessary, Johnnie’s Hamburgers and Coneys will switch to to-go orders only, also doing pickup and delivery. 
The Senior Citizens Center has been closed and some programming has been canceled.

Mayor and Acting City Manager Matt White said El Reno will follow whatever Gov. Stitt and state health officials recommend. 

The mayor recommends people keep their distance from one another and avoid groups of more than 10. Echoing CDC guidelines, he urged those 65 and older to stay inside as much as possible. To help businesses, White said consumers should continue to shop, especially online, and order food from restaurants for pickup or delivery. 

“We think it’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint,” White said. 

White said citizens should keep in touch with one another and keep checking on their neighbors.

He said those needing assistance should call the Ministerial Alliance Hotline. 

The mayor said those who need a break should go into their backyard if possible.  

“When it gets pretty, enjoy the outdoors. Go for a drive in the car.”