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No solid date for city DPW reopening

Dunkirk’s Department of Public Works is closed until further notice, director Randy Woodbury said Thursday afternoon.

“When it reopens depends on the Health Department protocols,” he said. “There is still garbage pickup and I want to commend other divisions in the city for stepping up and helping with this.”

Currently, residents are not allowed to drop their brush or recycling off at the city barns on Lucas Avenue. In addition, recycling will not be picked up Monday as stated on the calendar.

The city was reeling on Wednesday after a DPW employee failed to follow state and county quarantining guidelines and came to work after being tested for showing COVID-19 symptoms. Once it was determined the employee was not properly quarantining and had been in contact with numerous city workers, the department was shut down.

“I’m disappointed that the employee didn’t heed doctor’s warnings,” Fourth Ward Councilwoman Nancy Nichols said. “I’m a little upset with the county that it’s going to take the test so long to get back. Erie County has them back in two days. We’re stuck waiting over a week.”

Nichols also wondered about whether city employees were ever made aware of protocols in the city and what to do if a situation such as this arises.

Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas said the city’s policy puts the responsibility on the staff. “Precautionary measures were taken and all employees had to sign off on protocols set forth by state and county health departments,” Rosas said. “Employees have to self-monitor. The lead in all of this comes from the county Health Department.”

When asked if a human resources director would have been helpful, Rosas shared that “a human resources is desperately needed, but the personnel department is doing an excellent job getting the job done during this situation.”

First Ward Councilman Don Williams Jr. put the blame at the top. “This is a lack of responsibility on the part of the city’s administration to not have a plan in place for this scenario,” he said. “Council is told often that the mayor runs the day-to-day operations of the city. On this issue, the mayor failed to protect the employees of the city of Dunkirk.”

The employee, who is not being named by the OBSERVER, has not yet tested positive. “I just hope that the gentleman and his family are alright,” Second Ward Councilman Marty Bamonto said. “I do hope that the county gets the test back quickly. They are getting better and faster at it as this is still new. It’s been an insane year. I hope to hear all the facts on this issue so we can evaluate going forward.”

In an email to the OBSERVER, Christine Schuyler noted the department cannot comment on the city case. “My public health nursing staff and I have been working with city officials to provide education and clarity on COVID-19 disease investigation and management,” she wrote. “I have also been working with the city to ensure that the city government has state required COVID-19 employer protocols in place.”

Schuyler noted the with the reopening of Western New York, the Governor’s Executive Orders that were enacted to protect workers and stop the spread of COVID-19 apply to all businesses and industries that are open. “Our job in public health is to do contact tracing and proper case investigation,” she said. “Undue hysteria and attempts by others to do our job only impedes our ability to do what we need to do.”

She again noted some important points regarding COVID-19:

¯ Maintain social distancing (6 feet), wear your face covering when you can’t maintain social distancing, wash your hands frequently.

¯ The state Department of Health has issued guidance on what to do while waiting for COVID-19 test results. I have attached it here. Whether or not you work while waiting for test results depends on if you have any symptoms and if your employer has deemed your job to be essential to operations. The precautions you must take while at work are also here.

¯ The positive test result is what provides the diagnoses of COVID-19 and you will be ordered into mandatory isolation.

¯ Those who were within 6 feet of someone confirmed to have COVID-19 for greater than 10 minutes, not wearing face coverings or sharing utensils, cups, or anything else that one puts in the mouth will be considered a “close contact” of the person who tested positive for COVID-19 and will be ordered into mandatory quarantine.

¯ If you test positive for COVID-19 or are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted by public health.

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