PLAINFIELD, NJ — Mayor Adrian O. Mapp announced his plans to reopen City Hall and other city facilities in a live presentation on Facebook and YouTube Wednesday. Staggered openings, cancelations of summer programs, and COVID-19 testing in Plainfield filled the agenda. The daily report indicates there are 2,097 positive coronavirus cases, with 98 fatalities, in the Queen City.
REOPENING CITY HALL
The Mayor kicked off the meeting saying there are some pre-opening steps to take. "We have to make sure our Department of Public Works prepares City Hall for the return of our employees."
Safety measures will be implemented, including the addition of plexiglass barriers, and the creation of space between desks and workspaces. The measures are expected to be completed by June 15.
Phase I, the Mayor said, includes the physical return of employees in a staggered and modified schedule beginning June 15. All employees will be tested for COVID-19; their eligible dependents can choose to be tested. "This is mandatory," he said. The city will partner with MedExpress to administer the tests.
If an employee tests positive, he or she will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, and then get retested and cleared to return to work. If the test is negative, the employee will return to work immediately.
Temperature checks, the Mayor said, will be performed each day, and if an employee has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, he or she will immediately be sent home, or sent for testing. That employee cannot return without clearance from a medical professional.
Based on an assessment by department directors, employees will be divided into three groups. The most essential workers in group one will return first on or about June 15. Group two will return on June 29, and group three will return July 13. The Mayor did not define which employees fall into groups two and three.
On or about Aug 1 the reopening committee will assess the ability of City Hall to open to the public on an appointment basis only. Until then, drop-off and pick-up bins that are currently in place will remain in effect. Employees will communicate with the public via email, phone and drop-boxes.
Specifics of Phase I include:
- The utilization of staggered and monitored schedules, with rotating, modified schedules in all divisions;
- All in-person meetings are prohibited until all social distancing requirements are lifted;
- Business-related travel remains banned; travel approval will be implemented once the majority of States have entered Phase II of the Federal government's plan.
Employees will be required to follow social distancing best practices while at City Hall and other city facilities, including workstations and common areas. Employees will be asked to:
- Stay 6-feet away from others while working and on breaks;
- Avoid physical contact with others whenever possible;
- Avoid touching surfaces that may have been touched by others when possible without first wiping down said surface;
- Distance themselves from anyone who looks sick;
- Avoid gathering when entering and exiting a facility;
- Follow any posted COVID-19 signage;
- Disinfect the employee's workstation;
- Avoid non-essential gatherings;
- Avoid using common areas, and;
- If face-to-face meetings are necessary, the meeting will be held in a large meeting room where participants are six feet apart.
"We understand that one size does not fit all, and circumstances will vary from person to person as it relates to childcare and health challenges," the Mayor said. "Disclosures by our employees of any such circumstance will be taken into account as we move ahead with our reopening plan."
A number of summer events and programs will be impacted by COVID-19. Here is a list:
- The city summer employment program is canceled;
- The 4th of July parade, concert and fireworks programs are canceled.
- City-owned pools will not open this summer.
- City-sponsored summer camps are canceled, as are city-sponsored sporting programs.
- All municipal parks will remain closed until further notice.
There is some confusion as Mapp did not address any questions. Does this mean Hub Stine will remain closed? What about playgrounds on school properties? Can one play one-on-one tennis at the Donald Van Blake tennis courts? And how will these policies be enforced since Union County parks are open.
A hiring freeze put in place a few weeks ago will continue indefinitely, and includes no new recruits in either the Fire Division or Police Division.
During her 2020 presentation, Police Director Lisa Burgess said goals for the department include hiring additional officers to meet the needs of the city; 136 were budgeted for 2019/2020. Currently, there are 124, with 4 in the police academy, 2 who are on terminal leave for anticipated retirement, 1 on maternity leave, and 1 out on disability, leaving 117 officers actively working.
At his May 13 budget presentation, Fire Director Kenneth Childress said his department is understaffed by ten firefighters.
Attendance at conferences for the remainder of 2020 are off the table for the remainder of the year.
"We deem all of these measures to be extremely important if we are to continue to work at slowing or stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and, therefore, all of these restrictions will remain in place until we believe the time is right to return to a state of normalcy."
TESTING IN PLAINFIELD
The Mayor remarked experts agree testing and tracing are key factors to slowing and preventing coronavirus. "It is time for us to expand testing in our city. We are pleased to share that during the weeks of June 15 and June 29 we will offer testing for any Plainfield resident who wants to be tested."
Depending on how this goes, the city will assess whether additional testing times should be added.
Tests will be administered at a stationary mobile unit, with its location to be announced soon. A ticketing system will be utilized to ensure residents are tested on a first come, first served basis. No pre-registration is required. The process should take around 20 minutes. Testing will take place Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and up to 150 people will be able to tested each day.
Swab results will be available in approximately three days, and blood work results in about five days. All patients will receive a call with their test results.
On test costs:
- All health insurance will be accepted, with no cost to the patient;
- If someone doesn't have insurance but does has a valid Social Security number, the patient will be tested at no cost.
- Undocumented patients who do not have a Social Security number will have to pay a fee of $175 to the lab, plus $50 to the testing provider; however, undocumented community members without a Social Security number can be tested at no cost at Kean University.
Mapp acknowledged there will be those who will find fault with the precautionary measures his administration is instituting. "However, please understand that Plainfield is one of the hardest hit municipalities in Union County," in terms of positive cases.
"We will be guided by what is best for our city, and not by what other communities are doing."
To close, the Mayor reminded everyone to complete the 2020 U.S. Census, saying resources received from Union County depend upon the number of people living in the city, and the number of Congressional representatives is determined by the number of people in Plainfield.
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