I sent the following letter to the Claremore City Council and our City Manager. I'm sharing to encourage others to reach out to local leaders wherever you live. I don't have the training to save lives of the critically ill, but as a citizen and community leader, I can use my influence to encourage practices that will preserve lives as we begin thinking about opening things back up.

City Leaders,

I want to begin by thanking you for your service to our city. City leadership, particularly in Oklahoma, is often a thankless and difficult job. Your willingness to serve affords you the opportunity to bless many with your time and talent, and I am grateful for you.

I serve as pastor for First Presbyterian Church at 4th and Chickasaw. Our congregation includes many lifelong residents and many who have important roles in the community. We are a congregation that cares deeply about the well-being of this community, with special attention given to those who are most vulnerable. In the midst of this pandemic, the ill, elderly, and financially insecure feel the brunt of hardship Covid-19 has inflicted, and it is with these people in mind that I ask you to thoughtfully consider a number of safety measures that may be implemented as the economy begins to reopen.

The announcements I am seeing from various state leaders around the country focus almost entirely on timelines for certain businesses to reopen. While this is obviously important, I ask you to consider simple and inexpensive measures that can be taken to mitigate the spread of this virus while allowing commerce to resume for much needed economic relief. We know the virus will still be present in our community when businesses begin to reopen. What steps will we take in order to protect ourselves in light of this indisputable fact?

The first of these is the use of simple cloth or disposable masks. The use of masks will limit the projection of germs from unidentified carriers. Here is a link the the CDC information on the use of masks.

I strongly encourage you to mandate the use of masks for all workers as businesses reopening in the city limits. I also urge to to make a very strong recommendation for patrons to wear masks anytime they are inside a public space. This is such a simple and inexpensive precaution, why not implement it to save lives while opening up the city for business.

Finally, some of our city services require more intimate contact with the public. I am thinking about barbers/hairstylists, massage therapists, etc. I strongly recommend the city require daily temperature checks and the use of masks for these practitioners. Temperature checks are not a perfect screening method with this virus as persons may be asymptomatic for days, but regular checks may catch someone early in an infection and prevent them from spreading it to unknowing patrons. Logs could be privately stored to protect privacy and those with fevers sent for Covid-19 testing.

Beyond these specific measures, I encourage you to think beyond simple dates for opening and consider measures aimed at mitigation when we are all up and running again. We will be doing so for our congregation, but the scale of the lives you can save by doing the same through public policy is much broader. I will be more than happy to speak publicly in favor of such measures if considered or implemented. My sincere prayers for your health, wisdom, and well-being are with you. If I may be of service in any way, please do not hesitate to reach out to me via email or phone (found below).

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Grace and Peace,

Rev. Joshua P. Kerr

First Presbyterian Church, Claremore, OK

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