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May 29

City Manager's Message: 5-29-2020: Governor’s Executive Order & Reopening Updates

Posted on May 29, 2020 at 2:53 PM by Don Mann

As you have no doubt heard, this week has brought new changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  On Tuesday, Gov. Northam issued Executive Order 63, which requires that patrons begin wearing face coverings inside of most buildings, to include local government offices. A face covering can be a traditional mask made of cloth or paper, a bandanna, a scarf, or other type of garment that fully covers the nose and mouth. This means that when City offices reopen to the public, citizens/customers will need to wear a face covering when entering City facilities to make use of services provided by the City.  

For our workforce, my earlier guidance encouraged employees to use face masks in common areas, and all employees have been provided with at least one cloth mask for personal use. In light of the changing guidance from the CDC and the Governor, and in order to best protect our workforce and the citizens who rely on our services, effective immediately, City employees will be required to wear face coverings when in common areas such as the lobby, elevator or break room and whenever interacting with the public.  If your department has already implemented personal protective equipment (PPE) standards due to the nature of your work, please continue to follow those standards as determined by your department head. Employees are not required to use masks when in private workspaces or conference rooms provided that appropriate physical distance is maintained. The governor’s order also provides exemptions to the mask requirement — such as when an existing medical condition would impact the citizen’s or employee’s ability to use the mask. We will, of course, honor those exemptions.

Reopening Precautions
Although our city buildings are currently closed to the public, incremental reopening of facilities and programs is expected to begin in Phase 2, which the Governor has indicated may occur as early as a week from today, dependent on COVID-19 trends. As we begin the process of slowly increasing the number of people with whom we interact, it is important that we do so deliberately and with added protections in place.  In preparation, I would like to share with you some of the protective actions that we will be putting in place prior to reopening our facilities.
 
Each of us will be required to self-assess and monitor our health at home and stay home when we are not feeling well, or have symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 disease.  Guidelines for performing self-assessment before coming to work are in development and will be distributed before city buildings reopen.  We are also in the process of developing the procedures for employees to have a temperature check prior to starting the work day.  Although federal and state guidance has already been issued indicating that these checks are necessary and prudent based on a declared health state of emergency and therefore not a privacy concern, I want to ensure that our implementation provides not only the best protection, but also the least amount of intrusion possible. Specific procedures will be announced prior to public buildings reopening.
 
As I have previously shared, we have increased the frequency and thoroughness of cleaning and disinfecting in common areas of our city facilities, and will continue to do so.  We will also expect all employees to join in this effort by frequently cleaning surfaces throughout the work day, and by cleaning high contact areas between customer visits.  We are installing plastic shields to provide separation at counters that directly and routinely serve the public.  We have also thoroughly researched available guidance to ensure that maintenance of our facility HVAC systems, our methods of disinfecting, our signage and the protective devices we employ are the best we can provide for our employees and customers. 

?Department Preparations
So that we will be ready for the start of Phase 2 whenever it is announced, I have asked your department heads to develop schedules and other plans for reopening. In many cases, this will require more in-person staffing of departments than has necessary during our extended building closure. Staffing needs to provide expected services will drive decision-making. However, we will also continue to promote telephonic and virtual services as an option for citizens. We will allow continued teleworking options to the extent practical given the customer service needs of the department. As part of this effort, we are encouraging the use of cohort teams so that employees consistently work with the a small group of co-workers where possible. We will also offer staggered work hours so that we can manage the flow of employees into the building to minimize interactions and wait times for elevators at the start and end of the day. I ask that each of you get with your supervisor over the next week to discuss whether you can expect changes to your work schedule or status when we are notified of the beginning of Phase 2.
 
When customers begin to reenter our facilities, they will be prompted by signage and markers on the floors of common areas to maintain physical distancing and, as noted above and in keeping with the governor’s directive, they will be required to wear face coverings that cover the mouth and nose.  

Virginia Beach anniversary

As we continue to establish a new normal in our professional and personal lives, please take a moment to remember our colleagues in Virginia Beach.  It’s hard to believe that Sunday marks the solemn one-year anniversary of the horrific workplace violence event that took the lives of 12 people — 11 Virginia Beach city employees and one contractor — at the municipal center.  Last year, we showed that we were #VBStrong by wearing blue in honor of the victims and in support of those struggling in the aftermath.  Although a year has passed, our support has not wavered, and so I encourage you to again wear BLUE this weekend to show that we have #LoveForVB. City Hall will be lit in blue as well, so we can send our love And remembrance shining across the waterway to Virginia Beach.

I again would like to express my thanks and gratitude as you continue to provide the services and support to our community.  As you provide support to the community, please remember that support is available for you as well. Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a benefit available to you and your immediate family members free of charge. They have a wealth of resources available online and you can even schedule a virtual appointment with a representative. The website is www.optimaeap.com and the company username is “cityofhampton.”

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, and that you continue to stay safe!

Mary


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