Thursday, June 18, 2020

Hurricane Preparedness During the Pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a critical and evolving situation, it’s important to remember that June 1 brought the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season. With three named storms by the first week of June, this promises to be an active season. 

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor recently wrote a letter advising emergency managers that the NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s 2020 outlook on hurricanes in the Atlantic has forecasted a 60% chance of an above-normal season. 

City and town leaders should promote safeguards for the vulnerable and encourage ongoing social distancing even during hurricanes. 

Here’s a few pointers to consider amid the pandemic: 

  • Educate residents to think about stocking supplies that are not readily available, such as extra masks, and prescription medications.
  • If evacuation plans call for the use of buses, consider spacing to allow social distancing or provide additional personal protective equipment, or PPE, such as face masks.
  • Encourage residents to evacuate to the homes of family or friends, and use shelters as a last resort.
  • Consider a medical screening process at city emergency shelters to reduce the exposure of those with COVID-19 symptoms, and consider an alternate shelter location for individuals infected with the virus.
  • Determine the maximum capacity at shelters and secure additional space if necessary to accommodate social distancing.
  • Serve meals cafeteria-style instead of buffet-style for those in shelters. 

While a few considerations are mentioned here, FEMA’s publication, COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season, includes additional information as you plan and prepare for this hurricane season.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Virtual Annual Meeting to Explore COVID-19, Law Enforcement, Legislation

An in-person Annual Meeting for the Municipal Association of SC is not happening for 2020, but preparations are well underway for its online equivalent. 

Individual conference sessions, available through streaming video, will go online on the Municipal Association’s website on Friday, July 17. The Association’s annual business meeting, unlike the other sessions, will take place live at 9 a.m. on July 17. Municipal Association President Cornelius Huff, mayor of Inman, will lead that session. No registration will be needed for city and town officials to participate or to stream the video sessions. 

Here’s a look at the currently planned session topics. 

Several videos will address the impacts of the ongoing pandemic on South Carolina municipalities. These include: 

  • The state’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, with a perspective from the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control; 
  • The existing economic impacts of the public health emergency as explained by the SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, and what cities and towns can expect for their finances across the next year; and 
  • Information from the SC State Election Commission about the methods used to keep the voting process safe, both in the June primaries and the November general election. 

Law enforcement 
Jack Ryan of the Legal and Liability Risk Management Institute will lead several law enforcement video sessions. One of these will connect law enforcement practices to COVID-19, addressing how officers should use personal protective equipment and clean equipment. In another session, Ryan will discuss public safety exceptions for information disclosure under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Another session will dig into the other major topic in the news — the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the international protests of police procedures that have followed. This session will cover the appropriate care and restraint of prisoners in police custody. 

Legislation and business licensing 
Kathy Maness, Lexington town councilmember, is now serving as first vice president of the National League of Cities. She and other NLC officials will discuss the ongoing need that local governments have for federal assistance. Another session will explain what cities and towns can expect from the existing Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. 

Also, business licensing served as a significant issue for the General Assembly before the pandemic disruptions, and a business license standardization bill is still pending. Municipal Association staff will emphasize the importance of standardization and the steps cities and towns can take to make the process easier for local businesses. 

Find full information on the Virtual 2020 Annual Meeting webpage. All videos will be available on this page on July 17.

Monday, June 8, 2020

COVID-19 and Reopening City Services

Reopening facilities like city halls and parks while continuing to find ways to reduce coronavirus spread is a task presenting plenty of challenges for city and town governments. With local governments operating in an entirely new situation, there are plenty of questions facing leaders about how to operate public facilities as safely as possible. 

To help, the Risk Management Services of the Municipal Association of SC has developed a list of considerations for leaders to find the best ways to protect both the public and their employees. The continually-updated list now covers many ideas for minimizing contacts that could lead to contagion, setting up cautionary signage and establishing procedures for ongoing cleaning of public areas. 

In many places, parks and recreation facilities are reopening, creating questions for officials about how to best clean playgrounds and gyms, establish new rules for team sports programs and youth camps and manage swimming pools. The checklist also offers ideas for administering these facilities and services as well. 

Beyond the short return-to-work checklist, Risk Management Staff has also pulled together a variety of resources on reopening public buildings, parks and recreation programs and facilities, attractions and municipal court operations. The material comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the governor’s accelerateSC task force and others. 

Find all of the Municipal Association’s coronavirus resources on topics ranging from emergency governance issues to budget planning and business support on this webpage.