During the most recent meeting of Laurel Mayor and Council, Mayor John Shwed expressed sentiments regarding the current COVID-19 health emergency. Shwed said he wanted the residents of Laurel to know that even though the state of emergency is causing schools to close and restricting businesses, the services to the town will continue.
Town Manager Jamie Smith explained that given the Gov. John Carney’s mandatory emergency measures limiting social exchange, the town has implemented some measures to protect citizens and employees and maintain compliance with the state mandates. “No town services will be cut,” she said. “Trash pickup will continue and town hall will be staffed. We are alternating workdays so there is limited staff; however, everyone knows they are to be available if called on. It is our priority to make sure all residents are served to the best of our ability.”
Smith said the town is using a “walk-in window” at Town Hall to take payments, receive plans, and other transactions.
Shwed said in a statement that he wants to ensure residents that the town is working daily to minimize stress and make things as convenient as possible during this health crisis. “I want the people of the Laurel community and surrounding areas to know that we are all in this together,” he said. “The coronavirus pandemic has shown us very dramatically how fragile the human existence can be. Nevertheless, I am confident that American ingenuity and our ‘can do’ history will get us through this if we all take care of each other.”
On Sunday evening, Carney issued emergency measures to match some of those being imposed by neighboring states. This includes the “shelter-in-place” order that requires citizens to stay at home and only venture out when necessary, including purchasing food and medical supplies. In addition, all non-essential businesses, including many retail operations and personal care venues will close. This took effect on Tuesday morning.
“This was not an easy decision, but it’s the right decision to protect the safety of Delawareans and Delaware families,” Carney said in a briefing on Sunday. “If you have any questions about whether you should be staying home or going out, stay home. Go to work, and go straight back home. If you do not need food or other essential items, stay home.”
Carney said he wants Delaware restrictions to match those being implemented by neighboring states. It was a concern that because Delaware restrictions up until Tuesday, were not as confining as other states, many of the people were leaving their states to come to Delaware to enjoy more flexibility.
“We’re acting with urgency to prevent a spike in coronavirus cases that could overwhelm our hospital system,” Carney said. “Delawareans cannot go out in public unnecessarily. Wash your hands and disinfect surfaces frequently. Essential businesses that remain open must provide easy access to hand washing stations or sanitizer, enforce social distancing, and provide flexible sick leave policies for their employees. That will reduce our risk and help keep all Delawareans healthy. We’ll get through this, but we all need to pitch in and take this threat seriously.”
Likewise, Mayor Shwed encouraged those in Laurel to remain compliant with the state-mandated restrictions. He said the town would continue doing its best to meet the needs of the community.
“Town government, like the state and federal government will continue to operate because our business is to serve our people,” he said. “We will however modify how we operate. Town Hall will be closed to visitors, except by appointment, to limit exposure of town staff. We ask that residents continue to pay any fees for town services by check or remotely via credit card, or drop a check in the collection box next to the front door.”
Shwed also explained that specialty services including those provided by the various utility departments would be continuing. He said anyone needing services such as building permits, plan reviews, or issues with water and sewer or trash services, should call town hall for help. Town staff will be in the administrative office to handle requests.
Shwed said the Mayor and Council will most likely cancel its first meeting in April, but otherwise will carry on the business of the town. “Mayor and Council will continue to legislate as need arises,” he said. “While we deal with the health crisis we will continue to promote development of new business and housing developments.”
Shwed was quick to applaud efforts by members of the community to reach out and help during the COVID19 crisis. “I want to give a shout out to the Laurel School District for providing breakfast and lunch meals for children age 18 and younger,” he said. “My appreciation to others who have stepped up also. Councilman Jonathan Kellam provided food on the weekend and two ladies on Cooper Street, of their own action, provided free lunches from a table in their front yard. All the examples I cited are examples of ‘One Nation under God,’ the precious words from the Pledge of Allegiance to our Nation’s Flag in action.”
Shwed encourages citizens to support local businesses during a time when many are closing and laying off workers, and operating under extremely challenging protocol. “Support our restaurants by buying takeout,” he said. These businesses and their employees are suffering a significant revenue loss. We need to help them through this.”
Delawareans with general questions about COVID-19, or their exposure risk, can call the Division of Public Health’s Coronavirus Call Center at 1-866-408-1899, or 711 for individuals who are hearing-impaired, from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Questions can also be submitted by email at DPHCall@delaware.gov.