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Groves increases protection measures for COVID-19, city now has 6 cases

GROVES — The city of Groves is increasing protection measures to quell the spread of the coronavirus in government and administrative capacities.

Groves registered its sixth positive coronavirus case within city limits on Saturday. None are city officials.

The latest individual is a male between 55-60. He is quarantined at home and is cooperating with local health officials.

Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator Lance Billeaud said he felt stricter measures needed to be in place during the expected two-week peak period of the virus.

“These next two weeks are important in our area to be vigilant, more so than we have,” Billeaud said. “We are taking extra precautions to decrease the possibility of spread to our city.”

Administration will be allowed to work home if able.

Masks are required for city employees that are in a room with any other employee for the duration of the contact period. An employee working in the office alone is not required to wear personal protective equipment unless he or she comes within proximity of another person.

Billeaud said isolation is key.

“The city has very few employees, so it’s imperative that we keep the virus out of our employees,” he said. “This is the only way we can continue to function and keep our public safe.”

City hall employees will work one or two days per a week along with police department, library, water and activity building personnel for the next two weeks.

Library and water office staff will rotate daily.

Billeaud said the fire department has taken measures to allow for ample space.

“The firefighters have been advised that whenever they get into the pickup truck, they need to wear a mask when they’re are together,” he said. “We are also taking measures on every call we go on. The guys are required to wear N95 masks, safety glasses and gloves on every call.”

Under the First Coronavirus Response Act, all employees will receive normal pay.

The remainder of city workers in sanitation, water, sewer, streets, drainage and other essential services are not impacted.

Billeaud said the biggest concern of the city is losing a large section of the essential workforce if anyone falls ill.

“If one firefighter is exposed on a shift, the other two guys on that shift are also exposed,” he said. “That’s three people out of our workforce, and with the shortage that we have, that would put a huge workload on everyone else.

“It’s the same with public works. We have already seen the effects with other cities. If that happens to us, there won’t be enough people to work.”

So far, Billeaud said the businesses of Groves are complying with CDC and federal government restrictions.

He said it is crucial for citizens to continue following the guidelines as well.

“We have so few cases in our city because our citizens have been vigilant,” he said. “If they can continue to abide by these measures, then that will keep our numbers low. The more we stay apart now the faster we can get back together again.”

As the Easter holiday approaches, Billeaud stresses social distancing.

“Traditionally, Easter is a family holiday,” he said. “It’s one of those things that we are not used to having to do in our own home with only the residents living in it. It’s an instinct to want to get together. I know I’d love to see my parents, but I know how important it is to stay away from them. I feel that a lot of our citizens understand that and they don’t want to spread it to other members of their family, either.

“I know it’s going to be difficult, but I just ask that all the citizens, not only in the city of Groves, but in all counties, keep following the direction of [Jefferson County] Judge [Jeff] Branick and city officials to keep their distance so we can all get through this together as quickly as possible.”

Billeaud commends city department heads and City Manager D.E. Sosa for working together to implement these safety measures.

Until further notice, city council meetings will be conducted as a ‘dial-in’ conference starting with Monday’s meeting at 5 p.m.

Groves Mayor Brad Bailey, City Clerk Kimbra Lowery and Sosa will be present in the council chambers.

Other council members and citizens can phone in at 1-346-248-7799, meeting ID: 376-580-707, password: 339205.

There are steps you can take to keep you and your loved ones protected:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash. If tissues are not available, cough and sneeze into your elbow. Do not cough and sneeze into your hands.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Get a flu shot. The flu vaccine does not offer protection against COVID-19, but it is also flu season.