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Update: Tulsa barber who hoped to keep shop open will comply with governor's order

Update (8:30 a.m. Thursday): Adrian King told Guerin Emig early Thursday he will comply with the order to close his barber shop.

"After having some time to think things over I have decided to follow (the) 21-day shutdown order as it is the responsible and safe thing to do," King said in a text message. "In our second talk (Wednesday) I was talking from pure frustration from all that has happened in such a short time."

King closed his text with "Stay safe."


Gov. Kevin Stitt decreed Tuesday that all nonessential businesses in Oklahoma counties with confirmed COVID-19 cases must close for 21 days.

“These include businesses with close contact or personal touch, like hair salons, gyms, theaters, massage parlors and tattoo parlors,” Stitt said.

One Tulsa barber doesn’t plan to abide.

“We will continue to accommodate our clients as they wish,” Adrian King, proprietor of Picasso’s Barber Studio at 31st Street and Sheridan Road, said Wednesday afternoon. “Our clients are still requesting, which (makes it) evident that we are a necessity. We are an essential business.”

That said, King plans to continue grooming his clients despite the statewide decree.

He knows he is going to catch blowback. A Politico/Morning Consult poll Wednesday indicated the majority of Americans favor a nationwide quarantine as a means to contain the coronavirus. Several other states, whose political leaders have come around to this thinking, closed nonessential businesses before Oklahoma did.

There will likely be a legal consequence.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum spoke in support of Stitt’s measure Tuesday. He said Tulsa Police would enforce his order extending his ban on gatherings of 10 or more people citywide.

Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said Tuesday officers had done compliance checks regarding previous measures. That is certain to continue regarding Stitt’s statewide decree.

King is undeterred.

“This is my fight,” he said. “I’ll take fines, I’ll go to court when this is over with ... This is what I fought for all this time. I’ve been a barber for eight years. I got to this place. There’s no way I’m going to just give it up.”

There is a personal investment tied to King’s stance. He opened his shop just seven months ago.

There is a financial stake.

About the 21-day timeline, he said: “It could be longer than 21 days. If we’re realistic, right?... You can almost expect to extend again. And no, I can’t extend past that. I have to think for myself. I don’t know if my landlord is going to say, ‘Next month.’”

Mostly, King says he is standing his ground on behalf of his profession.

“It goes back to morale and mental health, self care. ‘When you look good, you feel good’ type thing,” he said. “People need this. They do.”

Not just a fresh cut, necessarily.

“We’re like psychologists. Now more than ever, we listen,” King said. “We don’t know everything, but we can give little bits to keep everyone positive, including ourselves. It’s the same thing now. We cut 50 or more heads a day, everybody’s talking about (the virus). That’s all they can talk about, preparing, the what ifs, I think this, I heard this, did you see that? Y’know?

“I just think people need to have the conversation.”

King says he has taken extra care since the pandemic affected Tulsa County.

“Usually I go open the door for everybody,” he said. “I glove up. I spray the seat down. The clippers and tools were always sanitized before this even happened. I have a mask on now.”

King books by appointments, which he says allows him to limit traffic in his shop.

He says his clients trust him as much as he does them. He has cut their hair for a while; he’s just doing so in his own shop now.

He doesn’t want to stop serving them now. He feels he can’t.

And so he says he won’t.

If it comes to it, King says he will make house calls and go mobile to groom his clients. He just doesn’t want to go there yet.

“I’m ready for a fight,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going to come from the city or who ...”

One thing King does know?

“I’ll be open tomorrow,” he said.


Featured gallery: How coronavirus has affected life around Tulsa

Gallery: How coronavirus has affected life around Tulsa

Local
Lankford, Inhofe urge passage of COVID-19 relief bill, blame Democrats for delays

U.S. Sen. James Lankford complained Wednesday afternoon about Democrat delays to a $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill just as three of Lankford’s fellow Republicans threatened the deal over a disagreement about unemployment insurance benefits.

“The heart of the package we’re passing today is almost identical to what we brought actually Sunday night, which was a bipartisan proposal which ranking members and chairmen of all the major committees had worked together to be able to get this done,” Lankford said in an early afternoon floor speech.

Lankford went on to criticize Democrats for holding the bill up over what he suggested were needless or even petty complaints, including provisions that the president, his family and no members of Congress can directly benefit from the relief measures.

“We spent three days, three days of delay because they had some additional demands for some things they wanted to do (that) targeted … the President and his family,” Lankford said.

At about the same time Lankford was speaking, word began circulating that four Republican senators — Lindsay Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Rick Scott of Florida — believed the bill’s unemployment benefits were too generous.

In response, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders threatened to put a hold on the bill to demand more oversight of a $500 billion contingency fund that would be controlled by the Trump administration.

Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe also grumped about the delays in bringing the relief bill to a vote, but conceded some aspects of the final product are improvements and none are particularly objectionable.

“Nothing here that I’ve mentioned gives me pause,” Inhofe said in a morning teleconference from his Washington office.

He said he expects a vote on the package Wednesday afternoon.

Inhofe and other Republicans have complained that the Senate had largely worked out a deal over the weekend, but that the intervention of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi caused Democrats to back off.

Pelosi subsequently sent up her own $2.5 trillion trial balloon that included several initiatives not related to the coronavirus epidemic and its resulting economic damage.

Wednesday, Inhofe noted that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. more than doubled in the past 72 hours, and said “that’s the price we paid for the intervention of Nancy Pelosi.”

Asked if he was saying those additional deaths would not have occurred had the Senate been able to act over the weekend, Inhofe said, “No, not at all, it’s just my way of saying there is a sense of urgency about this.”

Some have suggested Pelosi’s bill was more of a bluff to pressure Republicans than a serious proposal.

Inhofe said that doesn’t matter.

“It doesn’t make much difference,” he said. “It delayed us three days.”

That said, the bill that evolved includes $400 billion more for hospitals, businesses, medical research and individuals than it did on Sunday.

Inhofe said he is satisfied all of the money will help address the medical and economic emergency, and that the few additions are positive.

Specifically, he mentioned $10,000 “loans” that are essentially grants to small businesses through the Small Business Administration and $150 billion to state, local and tribal governments.

U.S. death toll passes 800: How are world governments handling the coronavirus pandemic?

More than 3,000 deaths in U.S.: How is the world handling the coronavirus pandemic?

Government-and-politics
AP
Senate unanimously passes virus relief package; House likely to vote Friday

WASHINGTON — The Senate late Wednesday passed an unparalleled $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The unanimous vote came despite misgivings on both sides about whether it goes too far or not far enough and capped days of difficult negotiations as Washington confronted a national challenge unlike it has ever faced.

The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appeared somber and exhausted as he announced the vote — and he released senators from Washington until April 20, though he promised to recall them if needed.

“The legislation now before us now is historic because it is meant to match a historic crisis,”said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “Our health care system is not prepared to care for the sick. Our workers are without work. Our businesses cannot do business. Our factories lie idle. The gears of the American economy have ground to a halt.”

The package is intended as relief for an economy spiraling into recession or worse and a nation facing a grim toll from an infection that’s killed nearly 20,000 people worldwide. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, asked how long the aid would keep the economy afloat, said: “We’ve anticipated three months. Hopefully, we won’t need this for three months.”

Underscoring the effort’s sheer magnitude, the bill finances a response with a price tag that equals half the size of the entire $4 trillion annual federal budget.

Insistently optimistic, President Donald Trump said of the greatest public-health emergency in anyone’s lifetime, “I don’t think its going to end up being such a rough patch” and anticipated the economy soaring “like a rocket ship” when it’s over.

The drive by leaders to speed the bill through the Senate was slowed as four conservative Republican senators from states who economies are dominated by low-wage jobs demanded changes, saying the legislation as written might give workers like store clerks incentives to stay on unemployment instead of returning return to their jobs since they may earn more money if they’re laid off than if they’re working. They settled for a failed vote to modify the provision.

Other objections floated in from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has become a prominent Democrat on the national scene as the country battles the pandemic. Cuomo, whose state has seen more deaths from the pandemic than any other, said, “I’m telling you, these numbers don’t work.”

Ardent liberals like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were restless as well, but top Washington Democrats assured them that a additional coronavirus legislation will follow this spring and signaled that delaying the pending measure would be foolish.

The sprawling measure is the third coronavirus response bill produced by Congress and by far the largest. It builds on efforts focused on vaccines and emergency response, sick and family medical leave for workers, and food aid.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., swung behind the bipartisan agreement, saying it “takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people.”

Senate passage delivered the legislation to the Democratic-controlled House, which will most likely pass it Friday. House members are scattered around the country and the timetable for votes in that chamber was unclear.

House Democratic and Republican leaders have hoped to clear the measure for Trump’s signature by a voice vote without having to call lawmakers back to Washington.

The package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

It includes a controversial, heavily negotiated $500 billion program for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries, including airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well. Six days of arduous talks produced the bill, creating tensions among Congress’ top leaders, who each took care to tend to party politics as they maneuvered and battled over crafting the legislation. But failure is not an option, nor is starting over, which permitted both sides to include their priorities.

“That Washington drama does not matter any more,” McConnell said. “The Senate is going to stand together, act together, and pass this historic relief package today.”

The bill would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.A huge cash infusion for hospitals expecting a flood of COVID-19 patients grew during the talks to an estimated $130 billion. Another $45 billion would fund additional relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for local response efforts and community services.

Democrats said the package would help replace the salaries of furloughed workers for four months, rather than the three months first proposed. Furloughed workers would get whatever amount a state usually provides for unemployment, plus a $600 per week add-on, with gig workers like Uber drivers covered for the first time.

Businesses controlled by members of Congress and top administration officials — including Trump and his immediate family members — would be ineligible for the bill’s business assistance.

Schumer boasted of negotiating wins for transit systems, hospitals and cash-hungry state governments that were cemented after Democrats blocked the measure in votes held Sunday and Monday.

But Cuomo said the Senate package would send less than $4 billion to New York, far short of his estimate that the crisis will cost his state up to $15 billion over the next year. More than 280 New Yorkers have died from the virus, a death toll more than double that of any other state.

Still, Pelosi said the need for more money for New York is “no reason to stop the step we are taking.”

Pelosi was a force behind $400 million in grants to states to expand voting by mail and other steps that Democrats billed as making voting safer but Republican critics called political opportunism. The package also contains $15.5 billion more for a surge in demand for food stamps as part of a massive $330 billion title for agency operations.

Republicans won inclusion of an “employee retention” tax credit that’s estimated to provide $50 billion to companies that retain employees on payroll and cover 50% of workers’ paycheck up to $10,000. Companies would also be able to defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax.

A companion appropriations package ballooned as well, growing from a $46 billion White House proposal to $330 billion, which dwarfs earlier disasters — including Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy combined.

Europe is enacting its own economic recovery packages, with huge amounts of credit guarantees, government spending and other support.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has agreed to commit over 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) in fiscal stimulus and support — roughly 30% of that nation’s entire annual output. France, Spain and Italy have launched similar programs.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

In the United States, more than 55,000 people have been sickened and more than 1,000 have died.


Government-and-politics
What is an 'essential business'? Cities following guidance of governor’s office, Homeland Security to decide

When Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order closing all nonessential businesses in the 19 counties with COVID-19 cases effective 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, the question that rang out across the state was: What is an “essential business”?

There is no simple answer. But federal guidelines and information provided by the state help clarify what businesses won’t be closing: pharmacies, banks, grocery stores, convenience stores, veterinarians, pet stores, and restaurants offering take-out service.

And your local liquor store.

“We have been crazy busy,” said Clay Bird, co-owner of Bird’s Liquor and Wine, 3135 E. 15th St.

Bird said he thinks the spike in business is directly related to the fact that people can’t go out to eat and drink.

“I had a couple come in here Sunday, they were gathering things to have a virtual brunch with friends,” Bird said.

Southwood Landscape and Garden Center, 9025 S. Lewis Ave., wasted no time assuring its customers that the business plans to stay open. In an email sent out Wednesday, the company said it is considered an essential business by the federal government.

“Federal guidelines include agriculture as essential business, and Southwood provides essential plants, including vegetables and herbs, plus the tools and materials people need to maintain their homes and gardens,” an email sent to customers states. “As an essential part of the local food and agriculture supply chain, our plan is to remain open for as long as possible.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides a list of 16 “critical infrastructure sectors” that includes emergency services, health care, transportation and government, but ultimately it’s up to local jurisdictions to determine what is essential.

“This guidance is not binding and is primarily a decision support construct to assist state and local officials,” Homeland Security’s website states. “It should not be confused as official executive action by the United States Government.”

In addition to the federal guidelines, Stitt issued his own list of essential businesses in the health care, public safety and government sectors. Those include medical marijuana dispensaries, animal control officers and manufacturers of personal care and hygiene products.

The governor’s list also includes workers supporting child care facilities and other educational providers “for the purposes of distance learning, provision of school meals, or care and supervision of minors to support essential workforce across all sectors.”

Businesses not already deemed essential by the state can apply for that designation online at cisa.gov.

Michelle Brooks, spokeswoman for the Tulsa Mayor’s Office, said the city is following the guidance of the Governor’s Office and Homeland Security.

Sand Springs City Manager Elizabeth Gray said she’s heard from business owners and other residents looking for clarity on the issue.

“We are just following the chart to the best of our ability that was put on the governor’s website.” she said. “We weren’t necessarily given a list, so we’re just talking to the individuals and seeing what category they might fall under, and if they don’t fall under one of those categories, then they wouldn’t be open for business.”

List of essential businesses from Gov. Stitt

Health care

• Health care providers, such as doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, physical and occupational therapists and assistants

• Behavioral health workers that help people in need of mental health/substance use disorder services

• Workers at veterinary hospitals and clinics

• Medical marijuana dispensaries and medical marijuana companies that help stock dispensaries

• Manufacturers, technicians, logistics and warehouse operators and distributors of personal care/hygiene products

• Family care providers and workers who provide support for vulnerable populations

Public safety

• Law enforcement, Emergency Management Systems, firefighters, Department of Corrections workers and search and rescue and tactical teams

• Private security, fire departments and emergency medical personnel

• Animal control officers

• State and county workers responding to reports of abuse or neglect of children, elders and dependent adults

• Employees at emergency call centers

Transportation

• Taxis, Uber, Lyft

• Postal service

• Delivery services

Other

• Hotels

• Grocery stores

• Pharmacies

• Gas stations

• Public and private golf courses

• Public parks

• Convenience stores

• Hardware stores, farm stores and garden centers

• Liquor stores

• Tag agencies

• Courts

• Executive, legislative services and other government support

• Faith-based services provided through streaming or other technology services

• Critical government workers as defined by their employer

• Construction workers

• Workers at public and private childcare facilities, pre-kindergarten facilities, K-12 schools, colleges and universities for the purposes of distance learning, providing meals to students or supervision of minors

• Plumbers, electricians and exterminators

• Workers that do home repairs

• Dry cleaning and laundry services

• Death/funeral services

• Many energy workers in the wind, coal, solar, natural gas and petroleum fields

• Farmers markets, greenhouses, vineyards, nurseries

• Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting

• Financial planning services

Click here for a list of nonessential businesses.


Featured video

Gallery: How coronavirus has affected life around Tulsa

Gallery: How coronavirus has affected life around Tulsa