At the Stoughton Public Works department, keeping essential services running has required a few adjustments lately.
Since the state’s “Safer at Home” order was implemented Wednesday, March 25, all non-essential businesses and services were shut down. People are prohibited from gathering with others outside their household.
But city services like street and park maintenance, stormwater management and yard waste disposal continue despite concerns over employees falling ill with COVID-19.
That means that although the doors of the public works building are now locked, staff are still hard at work on the inside.
City public works director Brett Hebert told the Hub employees still working at the department are taking a variety of measures to keep COVID-19 from spreading on the job.
“We’re treating everybody like they’re infected,” Hebert said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises limiting face to face contact with others and staying at least six feet away from people outside the home, though that presents challenges for department employees who would normally work in groups.
After the crisis began, Hebert said employees began working on their own as much as possible, and staggered start times were instituted. Only one employee may be inside a truck at a time.
When employees need to work together, they are asked to space themselves six feet apart and use personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves. Employees showing symptoms are asked to go home immediately.
Despite nationwide shortages of protective gear, Hebert said the department still has plenty of equipment because they happened to receive a bulk order just before the crisis. He said they were lucky to get them.
Public works employees have been instructed to limit their contact with the public, but they’ll also be changing some of what they do for the next month so Stoughton residents won’t have to put themselves in danger either.
Hebert said the department is extending their curbside yard waste program until May 3. That may seem like a small thing, but it will keep residents from having to leave their houses and go to the city’s yard waste site.
With that change, Hebert said, “We’ve actually found that we can do a lot of good.”