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May 22

City Manager Message: 5-22-2020: COVID-19 Updates/Reopening Planning

Posted on May 22, 2020 at 9:55 AM by Fred Gaskins

To: All City Employees

As the first week of Phase I – Forward Virginia, is coming to a close, I am reminded of how proud I am of how our city workforce has continued to serve and support our community during the COVID-19 crisis.  I would like to give our collective thanks to our first responders who, through this and every crisis, are on the front lines protecting us all.  I would also like to acknowledge our Public Works Department employees who have worked so hard to provide regular services that are critical to our citizens while also taking on so many new pandemic related duties.  I know that behind the scenes, many others of you have also been working extra hours, performing duties that are not normally part of your regular tasks, and helping us identify and implement new and innovative ways of adapting to this crisis.  I thank each of you.

As we look toward what the next phases of recovery will bring, many of us are anxious about how and when city buildings will reopen, how we will bring those who have been teleworking back to the workplace, and how we will manage interacting with our customers.  I understand that we will still be worried about our personal health and about exposing our families to risk.  We will still have childcare issues to contend with and supply chain challenges to overcome.  I assure you that our decision to reopen will be in coordination with federal and state guidelines and in consultation with health experts.  Our decision will be deliberate and well planned so that we can minimize risk to us all.  Your Executive Management Team has been hard at work developing and fine tuning citywide plans as well as individual department level plans for how specific workplaces will be managed. Soon, your department heads will be communicating their plans with you.

Even after we satisfy state and federal guidelines for reopening, we know that physical distancing will continue to protect us from resurgence of COVID-19 and so, many of the initiatives we have enacted to protect our customers and our employees:  provided cloth masks to every city employee, increased hand sanitizer dispensers/stations, increased frequency of cleaning in high touch/high traffic areas, teleservices, drop off services, and the expansion of services by appointment and using distance queuing (where customers wait in vehicles or the lobby until called to an office).  You will also be seeing even more posters and signage in our buildings, reminding our workers - and eventually our customers - of the importance of physical distancing, the need to continue handwashing and disinfection, and to strongly encourage the use of face coverings.  

We will continue to ask employees to self-assess and not report to work if sick and in keeping with the Governor’s Executive Order, we will also have stations at, or near, the entrances to our buildings where employees and citizens will have temperature checks prior to being allowed access to the offices in the buildings.  You will also begin to see visual cues in the way of signage and floor decals, to demonstrate appropriate physical distancing measurements.  While Public Works will continue to do the heavy lifting in terms of cleaning and disinfecting our facilities, the frequency with which surfaces will need to be cleaned means that departments will also begin cleaning commonly touched surfaces within their work areas throughout the workday.

There is still much to be done and we are not yet ready to reopen programs or facilities to the public, but as that time draws closer, I will share more information on what to expect and your department heads will provide you detailed instructions specific to your work assignment.  I anticipate that during Phase II we will begin the process of bringing back workers that are currently teleworking and working in alternative assignments and that by the end of Phase II, we will have over half of the workforce regularly assigned and that by the end of Phase III, all of our workforce will be back to normal duties. 

I look forward to the time that we will all be together again, but please know that this will take time and that for the foreseeable future, we will need to continue to use face coverings, hand washing/disinfecting and physical distancing to manage our risk, especially as we begin to resume activities outside of our homes, to include our return to regular work duties. 

Thanks again for your steadfast commitment to excellent service for our residents! 

Mary


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