Kaitlyn Finley | March 29, 2020
Some Oklahoma businesses adapt to fight coronavirus, others forced to shut down
To aid in the coronavirus response, some innovative Oklahoma businesses are working around the clock, ramping up production to provide supplies for the public and the medical community.
For example, pharmacists are taking advantage of recent FDA rollbacks on the production of hand sanitizers which now allow them to make and distribute their own sanitizers to their customers. This is important because retailers nationwide are currently in short supply of the product. Perry Pharmacy has started to formulate and sell their pharmacy-made hand sanitizers in liquid and spray bottles for their customers.
Other types of businesses including distilleries have jumped on the opportunity to help fill the increased demand for hand sanitizer. Prairie Wolf Spirits in Guthrie recently gained authorization from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to make the hand sanitizer at their facility. Since then the distillery has produced more than 5,000 bottles of hand sanitizer.
Jonathan Stranger, co-owner of Prairie Wolf Spirits, told KOCO that his company is giving away the smaller bottles of sanitizer free to the community; they are also working with other distributors to sell the larger bottles to stores. Stranger has shifted a portion of his employees who previously worked at his restaurants to instead help produce the hand sanitizer in order to keep them employed.
Although a few sectors are enjoying regulatory rollbacks that allow them to innovate and aid with the public health crisis, many more businesses have seen a sharp decline in business or have been forced to temporarily close their stores due to new mandates from the state government.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt ordered “nonessential” businesses in counties that have cases with coronavirus to close until April 15th. According to Gov. Stitt, this may include any gyms, salons, massage parlors, and movie theaters.
These restrictions will severely cut into business sales and have already hurt thousands of Oklahoma workers. Last week, a record-high 17,720 Oklahomans filed for unemployment benefits.
Melanie Harris, co-owner of Clothes Mentor, a resale clothing shop in Edmond, recently told FOX 25: "My employees just found out today that I’m having to let 15 employees file for unemployment. … We were looking at over $60,000 in sales, just in my small store right here, in one month," Harris said. "Yesterday, we didn't even sell $100. So yeah, it's tough."
As the public moves forward to combat coronavirus, it’s crucial that our political leaders continue to cut unnecessary regulatory red tape for businesses aiding in relief efforts, while also weighing the devastating impact this virus will surely have on Oklahoma families and the economy to come in the following months.
Policy Research Fellow
Kaitlyn Finley currently serves as a policy research fellow for OCPA with a focus on healthcare and welfare policy. Kaitlyn graduated from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Previously, she served as a summer intern at OCPA and spent time in Washington D.C. interning for the Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.