Cleveland City Hall, Erik Drost/FlickrCC
The recent spike in Covid-19 cases across Ohio. and Cuyahoga County's return to Red Alert status, (a status that may graduate to the most severe Purple
by next week), was expected to prompt Mayor Frank Jackson to reevaluate his plan to bring back City Hall staffers full-time next week.
But the administration has issued no official communication to those who work at 601 Lakeside Ave. No one seems sure what the plan is, and the city is providing guidance only in the vaguest possible terms.
"We have taken infection rates into consideration and have postponed our original plan, which was for employees to return to work in August," the city told Scene in a statement sent after business hours Friday. "The City of Cleveland is closely monitoring the number of positive COVID-19 cases throughout the area and will plan accordingly."
But those plans remain a mystery. The city said that City Hall had prepared the building for reoccupation in accordance with the Governor’s Responsible Restart Ohio recommendations, "including physical barriers, hand sanitizing stations and appropriate signage, social distancing, etc."
As it stands, City Hall employees assume they'll have to report Monday. They were hoping that Jackson, who most believe has taken the virus seriously, would recognize the danger and hypocrisy in sending workers back to City Hall full-time during an unprecedented surge in positive tests across the state. Jackson has repeatedly stressed in public comments that "the pandemic is not over." And in a press release Thursday, he promoted the basic safety protocols that he has repeated since the pandemic began: wear a mask, wash your hands, maintain social distance.
The daily record-shattering case numbers in Ohio should have been ample evidence to stay Jackson's hand, according to a number of staffers. They'd been despairing about their mandatory return in private, worried that the city has taken insufficient precautions to protect them from the spread of the virus. Others confirmed to Scene that they have been able to perform their work from home with only minor inconveniences, and wondered why such a risk was necessary.
Some city departments, including the administrative staff for Public Safety, Building and Housing, and Community Development, have been back at work at City Hall full-time for weeks. Others have returned gradually in staggered shifts of reduced hours. The mandatory full staff return aligns with pre-existing timelines that didn't anticipate a fall explosion in cases.
The City of Cleveland has experienced a surge alongside the state's. It reported 45 new confirmed cases Thursday, bringing the citywide total to nearly 6,000. Cuyahoga county is joined by Clark and Hamilton counties on a statewide watch for counties on the brink of moving to the "purple" designation, indicating the most extreme and sustained Covid spread. In remarks Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine noted steady increases not only in case numbers but in doctor visits, emergency room visits and hospitalizations across Cuyahoga County.
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