Muskogee County District Attorney Orvil Loge recommended commissioners and city councilors issue a joint countywide order that would require residents to shelter in place to prevent spread of COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus that causes the disease.

Loge made his recommendation Monday morning as commissioners discussed additional restrictions on access to the Muskogee County Courthouse and County Services Building. He will make a similar pitch at 5:30 p.m. Monday, when the Muskogee City Council convenes its regular meeting. 

"I wish the governor would do this — I wish the president would — I just don't think they would, and I think we need to," Loge said. "I know that's drastic, but ... this is either going to devastate us or we're going to devastate it, I don't think there is an in between."

Loge said there would be exceptions for residents conducting essential business, such as buying groceries, seeking medical help, and accessing government services.

The recommendation was made after news surfaced this weekend about the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Muskogee County, a second coronavirus-related death in the state, and an updated disaster declaration issued by Gov. Kevin Stitt. It came on the heels of an announcement by District Judge Bret Smith that greater restrictions would be imposed on access to the courthouse.

In a second administrative order issued during the span of a week, the local judiciary continued "all nonessential matters ... until further notice." Lawyers were advised to confer with opposing counsel to set new dates after coordinating with presiding judges. 

"In light of recent development in the COVID-19 pandemic, the following measures are being implemented immediately," Smith said. "The goal is to continue a functioning court system in a safe environment for all persons." 

The order restricts entry to the courthouse to "essential personnel," like employees of district attorney, court clerk, judges, law enforcers and emergency management services. Public access will be limited to those involved with essential matters, which generally are those considered "an emergency" or "urgent," and members of the press. 

Court Clerk Paula Sexton said documents may be filed by email, regular mail or left in an outside drop box by the front door designated for filings. Parties are encouraged to conduct business by teleconferencing. 

Loge's presentation to city councilors may be viewed online when an update about the city's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is presented to city councilors. Meetings are streamed live online at 5:30 p.m., and may be viewed at bit.ly/MuskogeeCityCouncilLIVE or on Suddenlink Cable Channel 14. 

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