ALBANY — City employees will return to more working at home as the staff, as has much of the community and nation, been affected by the spike in novel coronavirus cases.
“It’s still quite a bit,” Albany City Manager Sharon Subadan said of the impact on workers. “Last week there were over 50 employees who were either quarantined or infected. That number keeps rising.”
The city also has closed its drive-through utility payment option temporarily after an employee who worked there tested positive for COVID-19. The moves come as the medical community deals with a spike of new COVID-19 cases that occurred after the holiday season. At Phoebe Putney Health System facilities in Albany and Americus Wednesday, 126 patients were hospitalized for the virus, 105 at Phoebe’s main site and its Phoebe North Campus, both in Albany, and 21 at Phoebe Sumter in Americus.
“One of the challenges we’ve had is in the drive-through,” Subadan said.
Utility customers are being given the options of enhanced features for paying online and a remote drop site for making payments.
The city also has suspended operations at recreation facilities.
On Tuesday, new measures were put into place to allow employees who are able to do so to work from home. Supervisors also were given latitude in scheduling to limit the number of employees working in offices at the same time.
Albany City Commission meetings will be held in a hybrid model, with some commission members attending in person and some joining remotely.
“We’re allowing public hearings to happen in person,” Subadan said. “This was a problem last time because people weren’t always able to participate.”
In instances when an issue brings out a large number of residents wishing to comment, precautions will be taken to ensure there are not too many people crowded into the meeting space.
That was the case in September when the commission debated a face mask ordinance. The ordinance passed by a 4-3 margin on Sept. 3, 2020.
“When we had the mask ordinance and we had a large number of people in the room, we had the police monitoring the number of people,” Subadan said.
The Albany Police Department also is continuing to enforce the city’s mask ordinance, which is enforceable at any time the infection rate is greater than 100 individuals per 100,000 in population in the city.
“It absolutely is in effect,” Subadan said of the mask ordinance. “Other provisions of the governor’s order are in effect.”
During the pandemic, the Dougherty County government has allowed employees who can do so to work from home. In early January, Dougherty County Administrator Mike McCoy sent a list of guidelines to employees reminding them of protocols in place. Those include wearing face masks in buildings and county vehicles and equipment, staggered lunch breaks to avoid crowded break rooms, social distancing, and encouraging frequent hand-washing and sanitizing of surfaces.
Employees who exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 or who potentially had been exposed to the virus also were instructed to stay home and get tested.