Wilson County’s first case of COVID-19 has prompted several closures and operational changes for local government offices. Here’s what officials are doing to combat potential spread as of Friday.
The Lebanon City Hall and Mitchell House office buildings have been closed to visitors beyond their lobbies as of 8 a.m. Thursday. All citizens will be restricted to the first floors of both structures, and nonessential employees are working from home.
City services such as police, fire and utilities will continue operating as normal, and permits will be processed through city hall’s drive through window.
“To comply with recent guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, we are altering our permitting and payment procedure to limit personal contact,” Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash said in a news release. “This is all done to practice social distancing while still expediting permits for the rebuild after the tornado’s destruction.”
Those looking to receive and pay fees for building permits are asked to call Lebanon Building Inspection at 615-444-3647 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and can then drop off their payment at city hall’s night deposit box.
“We will reevaluate on a week to week basis going forward, and essential services will operate as usual,” Ash said. “We feel confident we have the technology and cooperation by all involved to work remotely as we do our part to reduce exposure to the virus.”
County employees are continuing to report to work, but buildings are closed to public access until further notice effective Thursday.
All county employees can still be reached during normal business hours by phone, internet or email.
“What we’ve really done is cut the public access off to all county buildings, but we’re still providing services,” Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said. “If some business needs to be done in person, like signing a plat, we’ll handle that on a case by case basis.”
No delays in payment processing or other services are expected, and the county courthouse has two drop boxes on the property to help with that.
“The response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be a long one,” WEMA Director Joey Cooper said in a news release. “We are asking everyone to take appropriate actions to prepare your and your family by social distancing. Our response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease must be fast, and we are counting on everyone to be proactive in helping us to protect fellow Wilson Countians.”
WEMA’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Chief Brian Newberry said that agency crews are following CDC guidelines to screen patients for illness, while dispatchers are asking questions about the virus.
Members of the public are asked to only call an ambulance for emergencies in order to minimize impact on EMS and hospital emergency rooms.
“Every day we monitor the CDC and the report they put out at 2 p.m. to stay updated on the confirmed cases in Wilson County,” Hutto said. “We’re also having conversations each day with Vanderbilt, the health department and WEMA.”
Mt. Juliet began restricting public access to all city-owned facilities and government buildings on Tuesday but will maintain services and operations.
Residents are asked to conduct city business electronically or by phone for the next two weeks, and all activities sponsored by the city’s Parks and Recreation department have been cancelled.
“All city services are available online, and limited in-person meeting requests will be available upon request,” City Manager Kenny Martin said in a news release. “Any in-person meetings will be held with social distancing and public safety protocols in place to make sure our citizens and employees are kept safe.”
Those with in-person business to conduct with city staff are asked to avoid doing so if they feel ill, and specific entrances have been designated at city buildings to accommodate such visits.
“We will monitor going forward for any needed adjustments and will strive to provide the very best customer service,” Martin said. “We apologize for any inconvenience, but we must put human health, safety and welfare first. That is and will always be our number one priority.”
Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings provided a Facebook update regarding the city’s COVID-19 response plan on Thursday, noting that city hall will still conduct business but could see stricter contact regulations starting next week.
Bills are still due on schedule, and city employees have been asked to look in on elderly and isolated populations to make sure they have resources.
Those who have rented out the community center over the next 30 days may either proceed with their events or receive a refund, and no new events can be scheduled for 30 days. Baseball drafts and organized practices have been postponed for at least two weeks.
Jennings said the city intends for the private sector to make its own decisions about closures and cancellations, and will monitor the situation in two-week intervals to determine any further actions.
“I am mainly relying on those with medical backgrounds, like the Director of the National Institute of Health, the folks at the Center for Disease Control and those with backgrounds in infectious diseases,” he said. “Like every other issue we have, this one has now become politicized. Whether you have an “R” or a “D” by your name is not important to me. The most important initials are “M.D.,” or something similar. Politicians are still following the dictates of their own political party, and I don’t see that as helpful right now.”