City to require temperature screening, other restrictions as it prepares to welcome employees back

Published 4:26 pm Friday, April 10, 2020

When city employees report back for work, they will have to have their temperatures taken before going on the job.

The requirement is one of three policy issues approved Friday by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The policy changes could also affect two holidays and will restrict employee vacation time.

Unless the board decides otherwise, all city employees who were sent home and then worked rotating shifts under the city’s emergency declaration are expected to return to work April 20.

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City safety director Steve Williams said employees begin temperature screenings Tuesday and will have their temperatures screened every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday by Vicksburg Fire Department paramedics and EMTs.

He said the fire and police departments will conduct their own screenings and other employees will be screened at the Vicksburg Auditorium.

Flaggs said the screenings are being done for the safety of the employees, adding they will be a condition for employment with the city.

“We value your safety,” he said. “We at least want to know that everybody at least does not have that symptom (of COVID-19), and that is the temperature. Every employee, including me, is going to get their temperature checked and we’re going sign off on it. That’s for your safety and our safety.”

Besides temperature screening, Flaggs said the city will not declare a holiday and close April 26 for Confederate Memorial Day as it has in previous years. He said he is evaluating whether the city will declare a holiday for Memorial Day, which is May 25.

With the exception of the police and fire departments, which have their own vacation policies, city employee vacations will be restricted to one day at a time after May 30.

The board on March 18 activated an emergency plan out of concern for the COVID-19 virus. Under the plan, certain employees were designated as essential and stayed at their jobs while the remaining employees were sent home and worked rotating shifts. The employees sent home continued to receive their pay.

Flaggs said after the meeting the reason for canceling the holiday was the city has fallen behind in providing services, pointing out the city’s public works and utilities departments are behind on work orders for paving, utility connections and repair projects because they have been working with skeleton crews.

Other services like grass cutting and the work provided by the city’s community services department have also suffered.

“We’re going to ask the employees to adjust with us on some things because we have not been reimbursed (for COVID-19 expenses),” Flaggs said when he announced the changes. “We have been good to our employees. They are not missing their time off; they’ve been paid, and this is an opportunity (where) we can recapture that money and we’re going to do that.

“We’re trying to be fiscally responsible and trying to make certain we can maintain our present (situation) and not have to lay off anybody.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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