ALLENTOWN, Pa. – How is the City of Allentown dealing with and preparing for coronavirus?
"It's the most important, most vital thing in the world right now," Councilman Julio Guridy said during Wednesday night's city council meeting.
Vicky Kistler, the director of the Allentown Health Bureau, told Guridy "it's been a city-wide effort" to reduce the risk of employees and residents from contracting the disease.
The city-wide effort includes an operations plan among all city departments, Kistler said.
"We are identifying what is important and what has to continue and can't be delayed for more than 12 hours, what can wait between 12 and 48 hours and what can be delayed 48 hours and beyond to a month," she said.
Each department is currently examining their essential services. This is being done should extensive absenteeism materialize due to the virus.
"We will know exactly what continues and what stops," Kistler said.
Kistler added city administrators are making sure "appropriate supplies are spread throughout the city of signage." Those signs instruct individuals to make sure they are engaging in bountiful handwashing with soap and water and hand sanitizer. The city is also instructing people how to properly wipe down meeting spaces and with what items to wipe them.
Kistler further told Guridy the city is making sure that there are adequate orders placed for these supplies and currently has "some supplies stockpiled ahead of time."
The health department is also "doing our best to answer as many questions as we can" from the public about the coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
"We are basically stressing to use the cdc.gov fact sheet and checking them daily and checking your travel plans," Kistler said.
She also noted a "basic top three" things that everyone can focus on to help fight the virus. The first, she said, is "washing your hands frequently and keeping them away from your face." The second is "not sharing personal items" and the third is "using cough etiquette."
A final note, Kistler said, is that employees are being told to "stay home when you are sick."
The city is also working to monitor absenteeism and in particular, "widespread absenteeism."
Allentown is also involved in discussion with state and federal agencies to monitor the situation.
Kistler added the city "is not going to institute quarantine." She told Guridy that is a "legal mechanism to control movement." Instead the city will seek "voluntary isolation."
Toward the conclusion of the exchange, Kistler noted the following.
"Eighty-one percent of cases worldwide are mild and we're stressing that point," she said. "Eight-one percent of these cases are mild.”
Kistler added that "none of us are authorities" on coronavirus as it is "novel" and that "we're just going to do our best to control the spread as best we can."
"Then we're going to pray the majority of our citizens and our workers fall into that 81% category, or that we dodge the bullet altogether."
Councilman Joshua Siegel was absent from Wednesday night's meeting.