East Providence community appears to be taking COVID-19 mandates seriously
Mayor, police and fire chiefs note adjustments being made by residents, employees
EAST PROVIDENCE — The overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic in East Providence has been positive from the perspective of the executive’s office and as of yet the city’s public safety personnel haven’t been taxed beyond normals measures.
The Post contacted Mayor Bob DaSilva and through his emissaries East Providence Police Chief William Nebus and Fire Chief Glenn Quick to discuss the crisis, each reporting back things are going just about as well as possible under the circumstances.
“Overall, the city has come together as a community to address this crisis. This is unchartered territory for all of us and we are coping each day and finding ways to adjust and get through it,” said Mayor DaSilva.
He continued, “Employees are working together to serve our community, while also adjusting to the crisis’ impact on their home life. With that said, employees have been given the opportunity for an Alternative Work Arrangement (AWA), which is an arrangement that differs from their department’s norm. It accommodates the needs of our employees while also balancing the need to operate city government.
“Employees, our City Council and residents have been kept informed of the impact of COVID-19 to our city via a number of ways including: executive orders, CodeRed alerts, the city’s website and social platforms, video conference calls, educational literature and the local media. Our employees continue to field many questions from residents on everything from where they can access meals and other necessities to how they can apply for permits and pay their bills.”
The mayor indicated residents appear to be adhering to both city and state directives on matters such as social distancing and large scale gatherings. He also noted the recent closure of City Hall to all in-person traffic, a move that went into effect this week and will continue until further notice.
“I believe they are doing well abiding by state and local directives, but we can all do better. We’ve received calls and witnessed ourselves, a number of people not adhering to some of the directives such as social distancing when outdoors and at stores. We need people to take this seriously and to adhere to these directives.” Mayor DaSilva added.
After announcing park closures in city late last week followed by a similar directive from the governor at the state level over the weekend, the mayor did say there are recurring concerns over pedestrian and bicyclist use of the East Bay Bike Path.
“We have had to take additional steps for the public’s own safety by shutting down parks. Some, however, continue to not heed the message of social distancing and have crowded the East Bay Bike Path. This has now been forwarded to the Governor’s Office," Mayor DaSilva said.
The mayor also noted another of his directives closing City Hall to foot traffic, but that day-to-day administrative activities continue.
“We’d like to remind our residents that city government is still operational," Mayor DaSilva said. "We are all in this together and are only a phone call or email away. We’ve taken additional steps to limit employee-to-employee contact and employee-to-public contact by instituting a split schedule. All employees who enter any of the city’s buildings are being screened.”
Public safety notes
Chief Nebus said his department has made a handful of adjustments during the pandemic, such as closing the lobby of its Waterman Avenue headquarters to the public and suspending VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) checks and job related fingerprinting.
In addition, the EPPD has set up disinfection stations at every entrance to cleanse officers’ shoes, reduced the number of officers sharing cars and how many unmarked vehicles are allowed to go on patrol, assigned each officer an emergency PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kit and taking all crime scene reports at a resident’s house outside. He said all officers will soon be provided masks from the department when the order arrives.
Chief Quick emphasized the EPFD’s emergency response efforts have not changed. Stations are fully staffed and able to respond to any emergencies that the community might face.
He continued, what has changed is first responders have instituted enhanced PPE and procedures such as following the department’s COVID-19 Clinical Guidance Plan, which he said, “has been very fluid as the guidelines change as more information regarding the virus is identified.”
Also, personnel are wearing enhanced PPE on all calls, immediately placing a facemask on the patient and are using an enhanced decontamination procedures for apparatus and stations has been implemented.
From an administrative standpoint, the department’s Fire Prevention and Fire Alarm Inspection Divisions will until further notice virtually conduct Smoke Detector Inspections and remotely review Fire Prevention Plan and Reviews.
Similar to the EPPD, Chief Quick said EPFD headquarters on Broadway is closed to the public with notices posted directing visitors to call the station to conduct business. All personnel, both in the stations and office staff positions, are practicing social distancing and using facemasks at all times according to CDC and RIDOH guidelines. And conference calls or Zoom sessions are being used in place of in-person meetings.
In the field, asked about the volume of calls, Chief Nebus said, “It’s about the same, but the calls are different and it’s mostly dispersals. Arrestees normally held overnight will be arraigned by a bail commissioner via teleconference and assigned a court date a month or two away.”
Said Chief Quick, “We’ve seen an increase in respiratory and flu-like illness incidents. The department is well equipped for the COVID-19 situation, equipment had been purchased well before the shortage of PPE began. More equipment is on order to sustain the increased call volume anticipated for the virus.”
As for their front-line employees, fortunately none have of yet been infected with the virus, though a few have been in isolation for potential exposure or needing adhering to healthcare guidelines during the pandemic.
Chief Nebus said as of April 6, five percent of the EPPD has been in quarantine for COVID-19 related issues and another five percent due to travel quarantine mandates.
Based on the same date, Chief Quick reported four EPFD members have been quarantined with either direct contact with COVID-19 and/or travel restrictions that went into place when members were out of state.
He added the EPFD does not have any firefighters who have tested positive for COVID-19, three firefighters tested negative and there is one test result pending as of April 7.