City of Cleveland to Intensify Mask Enforcement, Adjust Staffing Plan in Light of Covid Surge

click to enlarge Frank Jackson (5/4/2020). - Cleveland City Hall Facebook Live Video
Cleveland City Hall Facebook Live Video
Frank Jackson (5/4/2020).
In a Friday press conference occasioned by the statewide surge in Covid-19 cases, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson reaffirmed the city's commitment to enforcing its mask mandate at bars and restaurants and said a prior plan to bring back City Hall staffers at full capacity has been revised.

Jackson and a number of his chiefs outlined the city's recent and ongoing efforts to combat the coronavirus. Safety Director Karrie Howard said that in conjunction with the department of health and the state's liquor control board, police were continuing and intensifying their inspections of local businesses and their weekend enforcement sweeps to ensure compliance of mask-wearing and social distancing.

Alongside the state's meteoric rise in case numbers, Cleveland is now seeing well over one hundred positive cases per day. These totals far surpass the daily number of cases during the summer surge.

Jackson said that he had planned to bring back City Hall's staff full-time, five days a week, but that the recent spike had forced him to re-evaluate. He said that all city facilities had been improved with Covid-safe features, including plexiglass barriers and hand sanitizer, but that the goal was now to be at roughly 50 percent occupancy. He said individual departments would be given latitude to develop their own "hybrid models" and staggered schedules for employees, and that service delivery would have to be balanced with worker safety.

Jackson's Chief Operating Officer, Darnell Brown, said that in addition to physical improvements at City Hall and other facilities, all personnel were expected to perform a daily health assessment, and temperature screenings had been added at employee entrances. 

The impression was that a plan had been devised and implemented, but City Hall employees have privately expressed frustration in recent weeks about what is still perceived as an unsafe return to work. Many "non-essential" employees had been working productively from home for months, and they question the wisdom of even a partial return. Some have told Scene that the decision, which has not been formally communicated, is the result of an old-school management style — a "boomer mentality" — in which supervisors prefer to have direct contact with those they oversee to ensure that work is being done.

Jackson stressed that the city prioritizes service delivery, and without naming departments specifically, said that if certain divisions weren't meeting performance standards, supervisors would have to amend work schedules, presumably bringing in additional employees in-person.

With respect to testing, Jackson and his new Health Director, Brian Kimball,
said that testing was being conducted citywide in partnership with MetroHealth and the County. And in partnership with the National Guard, 12 testing events have been scheduled in areas designated as "testing deserts" on the east side. Kimball said the city would attempt to improve communication and messaging related to Covid safety at those events.

During a Q&A, Jackson was asked why, during the crisis, city residents have seldom heard from the Mayor and City Council.

"An empty wagon makes a lot of noise," Jackson responded, "and I don't intend to be an empty wagon making a lot of noise. I'm going to do my job." He said that there's much the public does not see, and the fact that the city has not laid off employees or reduced routine services should be evidence that he and his team have been working hard. 

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About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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