ATTLEBORO — City Hall will be closed to the public from Thanksgiving to Dec. 6 due to coronavirus concerns.
Mayor Paul Heroux said Wednesday the move is needed to fend off virus cases that employees and members of the public could pick up during Thanksgiving celebrations. The building will reopen on Monday, Dec. 7 at 8:30 a.m., its usual time.
“I am doing this because Thanksgiving is going to be a time when a lot of people contract (coronavirus),” he said in a statement emailed to department heads, employees and The Sun Chronicle. “The average incubation period is about 2-12 days. If we remain closed to the public, we will decrease the chances of this disease being further spread among our staff and their families.”
The announcement came one day after the mayor closed the assessor’s office and the library because of possible coronavirus contamination.
Both were cleaned and reopened on Wednesday.
As of Wednesday, a total of 10 city employees had tested positive for coronavirus and another nine were awaiting test results.
During the shutdown some employees will be working from home and some will be in the office on staggered schedules, the mayor said.
“There is no playbook for this pandemic,” he said. “I have a good team around me and we are making the best decisions we can based on what we know will best keep people safe.”
The city has bought a number of laptop computers with federal coronavirus relief money that will allow some employees to work from home, Heroux said.
He asked department heads to reduce the number of staffers in an office to “less than 25 percent” of the normal complement during the shutdown.
“Please figure out a schedule for a staggered work day,” he said. “People don’t need to work normal hours. You may be flexible.”
Heroux said some people won’t work at all.
“If you can’t keep people safe from one another, they should stay home, regardless if they can work remotely or not,” he said.
Those employees who often work outdoors may continue to do so if they can be kept “safely apart.”
Heroux urged all employees to clean “touch points” when they are done using various pieces of equipment or a space.
He emphasized that “every city employee should still be available... during normal work hours; this is not time off.”
Departments categorized as essential such as police, fire, water and wastewater are to maintain normal operations, he said.
But he said if any work can be put off for the shutdown period he would like to see that done.
“I want minimal people in the buildings as possible to decrease the spread of this virus,” Heroux told department heads.
He told them that any employee who does not feel well should stay home and contact their doctor to determine if they need a coronavirus test.
Other departments deemed essential are health, treasurer, accounting, personnel, mayor and MIS.
The mayor reassured all workers that all jobs are needed.
“Everyone else is important, but not always essential,” Heroux said. “Some departments quickly become essential depending on the context or need. Please do not think for a moment that the work any of you do is not important.”