NEWARK – The city of Newark appears to have weathered the 2020 nightmare pretty well, doing the job for its residents despite a pandemic and economic downturn.
But beneath the surface, it was the most stressful time in the lives of many residents and employees, and it’s not over yet. The effects of the coronavirus and the resulting lifestyle changes can last for some time.
Mayor Jeff Hall said there were no layoffs or major budget cuts despite slightly lower income tax rallies.
“Hit the wood, we’re sitting pretty well,” said Hall. “There were bigger cities in this situation that laid off tons of people last year. We don’t anticipate layoffs. I always have to say that word (anticipate).
“Yes, we received COVID money from the federal government that helped offset the extra costs we had. That certainly came into play and was nice and helpful.”
So the good news was that the city’s staff kept doing their job. And the hard part was, despite so many health and safety concerns for and their families, the staff kept going.
Police and firefighters were unable to work from home to protect themselves from the virus. And those employees who could work from home were isolated from their co-workers and friends for a long time.
“We’re in a business where we don’t have the flexibility some companies have during COVID,” Hall said. “We can’t close.” We have to stay open. We need to keep providing services. “
The impact of social distancing on the workforce can be a topic that has been studied for decades. It is difficult to gauge the impact, but city guides believe there are many adverse effects.
“It takes out the sociality of life,” Hall said. We miss the corridor chats. It is difficult. There is nothing like a good handshake or a hug or sitting to tell a story. “
The stress for firefighters, paramedics and police officers rose above normal in 2020. Specifically, the mayor said when responding to a scene like the December 23 accident that killed a 1-year-old child on Londondale Parkway.
“The roles and the world of these guys have changed quite a bit,” said the mayor. “Your world today is different and of vital importance. You see some things that are not going away.”
Fire chief Pat Connor said it had been difficult not to communicate with the public in the way that department members were used to. Limited fire inspections and awareness-raising efforts were carried out, and there were no non-critical vendors in the buildings.
“We have changed our daily operations,” said Connor. “The doors of the fire station are closed to the public.” We closed these doors pretty early. If someone brings goodies to the train station, we have to ask them to leave them at the door.
“Right now it’s not the same public safety. It’s not the fire department that I grew up in. It’s really important that the public react. “
Police chief Steve Baum said the police station lobby was closed and only open by appointment. There are fewer staff inside. Officers receive daily updates via email instead of face-to-face meetings. They just come in, grab their gear, and leave.
“NPD is a big family, and if you can’t talk to the family for a while, misunderstandings arise,” said Baum. “There’s a lot of information sharing that doesn’t happen when you’re socially distant.”
The coronavirus vaccinations that bring peace to many create more stress in others. The suspicion or even the need for the vaccine extends to police officers and firefighters. Connor said 52 out of 84 firefighters volunteered to get the shot. Baum said about 55% of the police department’s staff wanted to get the vaccine.
“They are people like the rest of us, and if they don’t trust the media and the government, they don’t trust them,” Baum said. quick healing man or woman and see themselves as bulletproof. You do not see yourself endangered. “
Eight police officers contracted the virus, but Baum doesn’t know how bad their conditions have become.
“I couldn’t tell you the severity,” said Baum. “We believe we have had more infected with the virus from their children at home than from work.”
Just getting the vaccine for police officers was a challenge, said Baum. They are not on the state’s phase 1A or 1B group list to obtain them. He said Licking County’s health commissioner Chad Brown, from local officials, went out of his way to help police officers.
“They made the executive decision that people who miss their deadlines will essentially render the vaccine doses unusable at the end of the day. He lets us know he has an ‘X’ number of doses and we bring in staff for the health department within an hour to get vaccinated, “said Baum.
According to Connor, 13 firefighters have contracted the virus, two are quite ill, and the rest are developing mild symptoms. But they are important workers who have to work when possible.
“We do not quarantine unless this is symptomatic,” said Connor. “Several family members (of firefighters) have been positive and are still going to work.”
The mayor, knowing what others have experienced with the virus, said he would get the vaccine when it was his turn.
“Some people I know got it, they would certainly never welcome it again,” Hall said. I can’t imagine having an opportunity to get vaccinated, not to take it, and then get the coronavirus, possibly in a serious way. “
The mayor said even though it’s a new year, not much has really changed.
“COVID is still a drag,” Hall said. 1 is the safety of our employees. You are only as good as your co-workers and I take care of their health, No. 1, and No. 2, they come to work. “
Twitter: @ kmallett1958