Yukon faces COVID-19 challenges

As of Friday, there were no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Yukon, though there were two cases in Canadian County.
Officials with the state health department said they could not reveal where the infected persons live, or, for that matter, how old the victims were.
However, City Manager Jim Crosby said he was not aware of any cases in Yukon.
Crosby said Tuesday the current threat is creating concerns across the community, causing some businesses to voluntarily close … at least temporarily.
Those decision will eventually have an impact on Yukon’s finances, said Crosby.
Already, because of the recent downturn in revenue, Crosby has asked department heads to trim their budgets for the current fiscal year by 2%.
That equals about $1 million, Crosby said.
Sales tax has been either down or flat for the last few months.
This month’s numbers were virtually the same as the sales tax numbers from last March.
Now, with the COVID-19 threat, Crosby said he expects to see significant revenue declines as people hesitate to go out.
“Some towns have closed everything. The financial impact of what this means, and not knowing how long it will last, are concerning,” Crosby said.
Yukon hasn’t asked restaurants, bars or gyms to close, though some have done so on their own.
However, the city has canceled or postponed at least two events.
The Taste of Yukon, which was scheduled for Thursday, has been postponed, as has the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast.
Crosby said once the current crisis has passed, the city will consider rescheduling the events.
The bigger concerns, especially if the crisis last for several weeks, are upcoming events such as the Festival of the Child, scheduled in May, and Freedom Fest, which is planned for July 3-4.
Both events draw thousands of visitors to Yukon, which could mean lost revenue for the city and for local businesses.
Yukon’s emergency declaration, which was issued Monday, says the city’s buildings will be closed to the public until at least April 6, which is the same day that students are scheduled to return to class.
However, the closures could be extended.
Oklahoma City has ordered several types of businesses to close or restrict services until April 12.
Besides the revenue issue that is being created, the city also has an expense issue related to employees who aren’t able to work because their offices are closed.
“When you close the buildings, what are you going to do with the staff. We can’t pay them for sitting around,” Crosby said.
“We’re not the only ones. What happens to all those people who are out of work,” he said. “You can only get paid for so long. Part-time people don’t have a lot of benefits and they are out of work. This will affect the economy.”
Crosby sad the city council will likely have to make some difficult decisions over the next few weeks.
“We’re going to have to work together as this evolves,” he said. “It is a very fluid situation. The city council and staff will have to sit down and decided which way we are going to go.”
Mayor Michael McEachern asked if the city plans to order businesses to close.
City attorney Gary E. Miller said he is researching if the city has the authority to make that demand, and what the city’s financial obligation might be if it did.
The city’s emergency declaration, issued Monday, encourages residents to avoid eating in restaurants. It recommends using delivery services or drive-through options.
In addition, city officials have said that issues related to residents needing help with their utility bills over the next few months will be taken on a case-by-case basis.
Crosby said the city staff plans to meet at least weekly and more often when necessary to discuss the situation.

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