COVINGTON — The Covington City Council unanimously approved a resolution at its meeting March 16 declaring that a public health care emergency exists in the city related to the COVID-19 virus.
The resolution was read and approved at the request of City Attorney Frank Turner Jr., who said in light of a similar declaration made by Gov. Brian Kemp of a state health care emergency, and out of concern for public safety, essential city personnel, and the preservation of public services, he felt the city needed to have the resolution on record.
Mayor Steve Horton also stated that the city will implement social distancing measures and limit the number of attendees at city gatherings. Federal guidelines released earlier this week limit gatherings to no more than 10 people.
The city had earlier issued a notice that public access to the council meeting was restricted to teleconference or video access due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The mayor and all the members of the council were present, except for Hawnethia Williams, who is recovering from surgery. Two people who spoke on one of the agenda items were allowed to wait outside the meeting room in the hallway, come to the podium to speak, and exit after they were through. A third person called into the meeting and spoke to the council over the phone.
Turner said after the meeting that the limit of people at gatherings is just related to city functions at the moment, but could extend to other public or private gatherings if the council decides it is needed and takes action.
Covington began testing a remote work plan for City Hall on March 13, with non-essential employees working from home. City Hall was closed for regular business, with the exception of the drive-through window for citizens making payments. Other business was conducted by telephone or computer.
City Manager Scott Andrews updated the council on the test, stating he is proud of the staff for the work they put into it.
“We learned a lot that day and actually have a lot of other municipalities reaching out to us for advice and input on what we did,” Andrews said. “The staff continues to learn, and we apologize to the public for things like tree limbs that may not be as pressing a priority. We are in rotation for our utilities. Continue to contact myself and Trey Sanders and the staff and we will handle things, but please just be patient with us. These are different times, and we’re facing different challenges. I’m just really grateful for the team for their dedication in this period.”
The council also encouraged residents to take care and help each other.
Anthony Henderson asked every to be safe.
“Take all the precautions you can to keep you and your family safe,” he said.
Don Floyd, a retired firefighter, asked everyone to keep first responders in their thoughts and prayers.
“They really don’t have an option in responding,” Floyd said.
Susie Keck said she is proud that the city is leading by example, and Fleeta Baggett added that the city will continue to be vigilant with everything going on with COVID-19.
Kenneth Morgan thanked city staff for keeping the council and residents up to date on what is going on.
“I’ve had a lot of phone calls where people have mixed information,” he said, “and it’s good that they can call us and get the true facts of what’s going on.”
Horton ended the meeting by asking everyone to be patient with one another and not panic.
“Please consider your friends and neighbors, and don’t buy more than you need,” he said. “We’re all in this thing together. Let’s not allow this crisis to hurt another human being. We should love one another and help one another.”