Telecommuting may become norm for some city workers

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Lexington is preparing for the gradual reopening of some parts of city government starting Monday and then even more in June.

But some changes, such as working from home, that have become the norm during the two-month coronavirus shutdown likely will continue to some degree, city leaders said Wednesday during a special meeting of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council.

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“Our goal is to keep on telecommuting. We’ve found some are working out quite well,” Chief Administrative Officer Sally Hamilton said in response to a question from Council member Susan Lamb.

“We may keep it on in a number of cases,” Hamilton continued, nodding in agreement with the suggestion that in some cases, productivity and efficiency had improved.

So far, the city has spent $214,009 on COVID-19 expenses, most of which city leaders hope will be reimbursed by the federal government in the future. Most of that includes PPE items such as gloves, masks, and other items.

In preparation for being able to ease back into 50 percent staffing capacity starting next week under the state’s gradual reopening, the city has ordered “thousands” of disposable masks and about 6,000 cloth masks which will arrive May 8 and May 11.

The city also has ordered 8,000 gloves, which will arrive May 8, Hamilton said.

The disposable masks mostly will be given to people who enter city buildings and to workers on short-term needs. The cloth masks will be given to city employees with instructions on how to care for and clean them.

And city leaders say they will try to set examples for both other workers and visitors about wearing the masks.

“We are going to encourage employees, especially senior staff, to wear their masks to demonstrate we are taking this seriously,” Hamilton noted.

The city also is implementing temperature checkpoints for visitors and the risk management staff is developing a set of questions and guidelines to help the city meet state standards for re-opening. Workers will be able to take their own temperature at home before coming to work, which is allowed.

As of Wednesday, the city’s police department has one officer in quarantine because of the coronavirus, and community corrections has five staff in quarantine and two in isolation. The fire department has no staff in quarantine or isolation.

Given the troubles at the state’s Green River Correctional Facility and the Federal Health Center in Lexington which has seen a big jump in coronavirus cases in the last two days, Council members were quick to question Public Safety Commissioner Ken Armstrong about concerns with similar outbreaks in city and county facilities.

Armstrong said early action by the city likely headed off some of those problems.

“We took some steps much sooner than some others and that is paying off we think. We are still restricting visitation, still doing deep cleaning. Still doing all the things we started from the beginning,” he said, noting the staff will conduct at-the-door temperature testing.