Life in Guymon, Oklahoma hasn’t changed much as the coronavirus swept the world and the nation. The 11,500 residents in the largest town in the Oklahoma panhandle have continued on with their daily lives, warily watching as the virus gets closer. The nearest infection report is 100 miles away, but people are concerned that the disease may already be here, or will find its way in as workers from Texas, Kansas and other areas of the state commute to jobs in meat processing, feedlots and farms.
Guymon has not been spared the panic buying seen elsewhere and its library and recreation center are closed. All Oklahoma schools are shut for the remainder of their year.
But locally-owned small businesses and restaurants remain open, albeit limiting customers. Most people are more worried about the economic effects of the response to the virus than the disease itself.
Unlike in neighboring New Mexico and Colorado, most Oklahomans do not face a stay-at-home order, but adults over 65 and people with underlying conditions are asked not to go out.
But all of this could change quickly. Under a gubernatorial order, if the city records just one case of COVID-19, all non-essential businesses in the city will close.
City Manager Joe Dunham said:
“I was hoping to keep restaurants open as long as possible just to create a sense of normalcy and not have panic. It’s a little bit quieter, the highway still seems pretty busy though.”
One of the reasons life in Guymon rumbles on is because of a pork processing plant just a few miles away operating at peak capacity with 2,600 employees. With grocery stores running out of food, those in agriculture or food processing have plenty of work to do.
Plant employees are asked to stay home if they feel sick and Seaboard is offering two weeks paid leave to any worker told to self-quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19, said spokesman David Eaheart. The company is giving extra pay to employees who meet attendance requirements in the busy weeks ahead.
Thirteen coronavirus tests have come back negative in the county, with zero positive and 10 results pending, Texas County Memorial Hospital reported.
That’s a lot different than New York City, or even Dallas or New Orleans, and shows why regional differences should be considered when issuing restrictive orders.