BETHLEHEM, Pa. - What else can be said that hasn't already about the chaos, fear, anxiety, disruption and confusion triggered by the coronavirus pandemic?
Try Bethlehem City Council President Adam Waldron's quote:
"This week has been a long month."
That statement, uttered during the legislative body's Tuesday night meeting, captured the tone of a meeting that was unusual in many ways. For starters, the majority of council - four - were not in attendance. Devoid of a quorum, city council could not vote.
Councilwomen Olga Negron, Paige Van Wirt, Grace Crampsie Smith and Councilman Bryan Callahan were absent. In attendance were Councilman J. William Reynolds, Michael Colon and Waldron.
Also absent - the public. Citizens disguised as empty chairs dominated the stately rotunda meeting room.
The meeting turned into department heads offering reports on their efforts to deal with coronavirus. Here are the highlights:
- The city resident and Lehigh Valley Health Network employee who tested positive for the virus remains in quarantine. The administration added that individuals in close contact with the infected are currently in self-quarantine.
- Bethlehem is implementing programs and measures previously planned during the crisis. Kristen Wenrich, the city's health bureau director, said among the city's most important priorities is dispensing accurate information. "We have to try to control rumors...and reducing the panic so we are having reliable information."
- Wenrich added the city is "actively working" with the Bethlehem Area School District, providing guidance" to food facilities and are "engaged with the non-profit agencies to focus on the needs of the vulnerable community."
- Waldron said "It's clear there has been a lot of time and resources put into our response."
- Reynolds said it was important that the city dispense as much accurate information as possible. Waldron added that "The challenge for all of us going forward is that a lot of the people that need this information are not people that are going to walk in our door." Wenrich said the city is constantly updating their website with information from reliable government and agency sources.
- Reynolds also said the city could do a good public service by explaining to residents what various government directives and declarations mean.
- Mayor Robert Donchez said the situation is obviously fluid and officials are constantly reevaluating their next moves. Future considerations include staggered shifts for some employees and closing City Hall to the public.
- The city will make a level three declaration of disaster, as soon as possible. That means the city will be able to better secure City Hall, and receive more information from the 911 center to equip first responders with as much information as possible before implementing treatment.
- Finally, Waldron said that "in the back of our mind is how we can help small businesses, which is something that we are all really concerned about."