Prichard Mayor Jimmie Gardner announced Friday that the city’s garbage collection services would be temporarily halted due to a public works employee testing positive for COVID-19.
“We hope and pray citizens will be patient,” Gardner said. “Some services will be shut down temporarily.”
At a press briefing in front of the A.J. Cooper Municipal Complex, Gardner told reporters the entire department has been shut down so that all 25 employees are being tested for the disease. If those tests come back negative, garbage collection could continue early next week.
“In this process we’ve had one day of service missed — today,” Gardner said. “We’re hoping that with the weekend and Monday being a holiday that we’ll get test results back and be back to work as early as Tuesday.”
If it takes longer to get results back, or if the department turns out to have a cluster of infections, Gardner said the city has alternate plans to possibly use private service for a short time.
“I’ve got to have a conversation with the [Prichard City] Council in terms of where we are,” he said. “Hopefully, we can work through this.”
While employees are being quarantined, Gardner said the city will disinfect and sanitize the department’s facilities and equipment in hopes of stopping the spread of the virus.
Prichard City Councilman Lorenzo Martin said he had not heard about the garbage service being suspended until he was contacted by a Lagniappe reporter Friday afternoon. He said his top concern at the moment is the working conditions of public works employees.
While Gardner assured reporters that city employees were wearing masks and other personal protective equipment, Martin said he hasn’t noticed masks being worn by public works employees. He’s also claimed that one public works employee told him drivers are swapping garbage trucks and those trucks aren’t being sanitized between uses.
“My greatest concern is with the working conditions of public works employees,” Martin said. “If they haven’t been keeping six feet apart or haven’t been sanitizing frequently used surfaces and there has been more than one person in a truck, that’s a problem. Those measures have to be put in place.”
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