City workers have been busy over the last week in retrofitting numerous workspaces and counters in City Hall with plexiglass shields and other protective measures, though City and health officials said they are not ready to announce any date that a modified City Hall opening could take place.
Led by George Lane and the Facilities Maintenance team, workers have been building scores of new protections that will be used once City Hall is able to re-open.
However, just when that will be and how it will take place is still up in the air. While many City officials in neighboring communities like Chelsea have circled June 1 as the hopeful date to open the doors again, Everett officials said they aren’t prepared to give a date.
Meanwhile, they are meeting regularly with consultations from Public Health Nurse Sabrina Firicano. She said the plexiglass barriers are an important first step. They are also installing plexiglass barriers between cubicles in offices to protect co-workers from one another.
Even with that, it won’t be business as usual – coming and going into the Hall.
“That plexiglass creates an important barrier between co-workers and between those coming into City Hall,” she said. “We’ll be moving to an appointment-based system. If you want to pay bills, it would have to be done by appointment. We’re also looking at a potential drive-thru and that would lessen the foot traffic.”
She said if someone needs a birth certificate, they can make an appointment, and get a time to come to City Hall. Once there, someone from inside would come out dressed in appropriate PPE and deliver certificate to the person.
If someone does need to come into City Hall, that would mean they have to wear a mask, and all employees will be doing the same. Anyone without a mask would not be allowed in City Hall, and masks would be provided to them if they have none.
“If you enter, you have to have a mask on,” she said. “Some people will want to go back to the way it was, but can’t do that because we need to keep residents and employees safe.”
Officials said they would likely ramp up slowly towards a full opening, not simply opening the doors and going full-steam.
“We have to also look at if we’re going to be open Monday through Thursday and what will being open look like,” she said. “We will probably start at two days, then when the time is right move to three days, and then eventually arrive at our normal four-day work week. Some people will now be able to work at home, and if we don’t need to have every single employee in at the same time, that could be ideal.”
The idea is to have two shifts initially where Group A workers come in for a time, then clean and sanitize their space before leaving. Then another Group B slot of workers would come in and occupy the same spaces. There are some offices that would likely be busier by appointment, and they would likely set limits on the numbers of people that can be in one office at a time. If the office exceeds the limits, people would have to wait outside.
Nevertheless, City officials from virtually every department have reported that residents have adapted quickly to an online system, even for bill paying and other functions. It has worked so well that the City would like to move forward more in that vein – moving to online payments over in person, cash payments whenever possible.
Finally, they are currently establishing protocols for employee health. There will be a no-tolerance policy for anyone not feeling well or who is feverish. They will have to report that to a supervisor, and then go home.
•CASES GOING DOWN DAY OVER DAY
Everett has now logged 1,355 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and Public Health Nurse Sabrina Firicano said there has been more success in the numbers – as they logged the smallest increase in cases in Tuesday’s numbers.
“We were six cases up from Monday and that’s the smallest increase we’ve had since the end of March in respect to more positive cases,” she said. “We averaged around 25 to 35 a day. Today (Tuesday) was a step in the right direction. Hopefully it continues that way or stabilizes to a more predictable number rather than going up and down.”
Sadly, there are 24 residents that have passed away due to COVID-19, but there were, on the other hand, 248 residents who have recovered from the disease, and Firicano said most of the cases in Everett have been mild.
“Hospitalizations continue to decrease and we’re fortunate because most residents have no symptoms or mild cases of symptoms,” she said.