Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill and County Commissioner Jon Weber have both confirmed that they have sent home all nonessential employees and are strongly recommending that all businesses limit personal contact with employees and the public.
All city and county employees will be home for two weeks and will be paid. Merrill said they’ve gone down to a “skeleton crew” but essential government functions like providing water, sewer and waste management will still continue.
“We signed a declaration, a state of emergency, last week along with the City of Rexburg,” Weber said. “We did that to stay in front of the coronavirus and all that it may bring to our community. It also opens up financial opportunities for small businesses and our community at large.”
Merrill said they made the declaration not to increase fear but to allow for the city to have access to federal funding as it becomes available and acquire necessary goods like masks without going through the competitive market.
Merrill said they are asking restaurants and businesses to get creative with their services by moving to online, having drive-thru options and having employees work remotely.
“If it gets a lot worse we may have to take stronger action but we’re doing everything we can to try and avoid that,” he said. “We recognize these are people’s livelihoods and there’s a lot of people who can’t live without their paycheck. We’re recommending these actions that they take now to limit public exposure.”
Merrill said they will also be putting up signs at the parks to limit public gathering.
“We’re not gonna totally close the parks because if people want to walk the paths we feel that’s OK but don’t gather in groups to play basketball,” he said.
Merrill said the city parks department also ordered sanitizing spray and will be cleaning the play equipment but he asks that people not use the playground equipment for at least three weeks.
“We’re unsure how long this will last but if we get on top of it sooner rather than later the quicker it will pass,” said County Commissioner Brent Mendenhall.
Commissioner Todd Smith is currently self-isolating and has been since last week. Weber said it was because he attended an LHTAC meeting where there was potential for exposure to COVID-19.
Residents are encouraged to visit bereadymadison.org for the latest information on the virus and what local officials are recommending.
The Standard Journal will continue to cover this topic. Residents can get the latest news on the virus at uvsj.com