City of Nederland sending employees home for 2 weeks amid COVID-19 concern

Published 2:00 pm Thursday, April 9, 2020

NEDERLAND — All non-essential Nederland employees are being sent home.

City Council members voted Thursday to approve the COVID-19 response after City Manager Chris Duque said two fulltime employees tested for the virus and are waiting for their results.

A part-time employee’s family member also tested for the virus and is waiting on results.

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“While some city services will be closed for potentially two weeks, the potential public health and the health of our employees outweighs the temporary interruption of services,” Duque said.

The employees in question worked at two different city buildings. Over the past several days, Nederland has contracted with a company to sanitize the works areas, the building and the fleet of vehicles in that department to prevent any continued exposure.

Non-essential employees are expected to work from home beginning Monday (April 13) and stay that way for two weeks. Good Friday (April 10) is a city holiday.

Essential employees, those still required to report for work, include personnel with police, fire, dispatch, information technology, water treatment plants, sewer treatment plants, solid waste and the city manager.

“City department heads and supervisors will be allowed to work from home,” Duque said. “If necessary, due to an emergency for immediate need, the essential employees and non-essential employees may be called back for work.”

Non-essential personnel will be required to report in daily with their department heads.

Duque said all information shared from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state of Texas suggest right now is the height of the coronavirus curve.

“Once we get past these dates, we may be coming in the backend of it, versus still rising into the crest,” Duque said.

It may be possible to resume normal operations quicker than the two-week period if new health information is shared from state or federal officials.

Any extension of that two-week period would require additional city council action.

Garbage and trash pickup will still continue.

“With so many people home and not having as much to do, they decided to clean out a garage, clean out an attic, clean out a closet,” Duque said. “We’ve noticed a much greater surge in what’s being put out at the curb. We’re managing it as best we can and have no intention of slowing down those services.”

Based on recommendations from the police and the parks departments, Nederland is closing Doornbos Park on Easter Sunday.

“We’re just going to close the gates and not allow any picnicking or any groups to gather,” Duque said. “If someone wants to go walking, they can still go walking on the walking trail. Because it’s Easter Sunday, a large holiday, the possibility of groups coming to have egg hunts, barbecue or anything like that is very high. We want to get the message out that, ‘No, that will not be allowed that day.’”