The City of Chelsea reported late Tuesday that there were two confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in residents, and took extraordinary measures to close down most all City operations, including public parks with tot lots/playgrounds.
In addition, City Hall has closed to in-person visits, as well as the Senior Center and the Chelsea Public Library (though children’s Librarian Katherine has been doing wonderful story time videos online for kids).
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the situation has been stressful, and he fears that it will be more challenging in the coming days.
“We’re trying to keep doing everything we can to reinforce this social distancing effort and plugging along at this crisis,” he said. “We are very worried about what’s about to come with an escalation of cases, the health care industry being overwhelmed and the City being overwhelmed and not having enough resources for the flood of displacement that is about to happen and overwhelm us. It’s people not being able to pay rent. It’s people losing their jobs. It’s the City and state revenues falling through the floor. It’s really exhausting honestly.”
He said the situation has reminded him of the days after 9/11, but in some ways this is much worse.
“It’s unprecedented,” he said. “In a lot of ways it reminded me of the days after 9/11, but really that was one event and one event to deal with. With this, you keep wondering how long it’s going to keep going. You keep waiting for the wave to hit you and you don’t know when or where that will be. We’re all trying very hard, but there is no playbook.”
The park closure is unique, with Everett going forward with that this week as well.
“All City tot lots and/or playground structures are now closed,” read the instruction from the City. “Please do not let your children play on these surfaces. The grass and fields will remain open, but please practice social distancing and do not engage in contact sports.”
Other measures include:
•Due to rapidly changing circumstances, the City Manager has made the difficult decision to close to the public City Hall, the Library and the Senior Center for an indefinite period, but at least until Mon. Mar. 30.
Despite this situation, the City is still committed to delivering certain core services. But, only critical staff will remain on site. Most employees will be working from home. Buildings will be closed to the public effective immediately. Residents are encouraged to interact with the City by mail or on-line. We also encourage the use of our 3-1-1 phone line during previous business hours.
•The State Department of Public Utilities has extended the winter moratorium on residential gas and electric shut-offs until the state of emergency is lifted or the order is rescinded. This will reduce the pressure on low-income families to make decisions between paying for healthcare or paying for utilities.
• All renewals periods for parking permits and parking stickers are extended until June 1, 2020. Renewals for all current dog tags expiring on March 31 and April 30 have been extended until June 1.
All parking ticket appeals must be submitted in writing by mail, online, or dropped off in the green mailbox outside of City Hall on Washington Avenue. To accommodate this change, the appeal period for all tickets issued on or after March 1st will be extended by thirty (30) days. No appeals will be accepted in person at City Hall for any reason.
The City will extend the date for payment of excise tax bills due on March 25, 2020. Those bills will now be due no later than April 28, 2020. No interest shall accrue during this extension period.
Ambrosino said employees are being paid and most are working from home on projects that are important to City business. He said while City Hall is not open, the work of the City continues to go on by computer, phone and other means.
“People have been working really hard here,” he said. “I have to say the staff have been tremendous to try to address all the problems we’ve identified. People are nervous at the same time and worried that they’ll get sick or their families will get sick.”
For more updates as they happen, stay tuned to the Record’s website (www.chelsearecord.com) or the Record’s Twitter feed at handle @ChelseaRecord.