Fight against virus hits home in Williams
Williams community leaders meet to discuss school closures, employee leave, senior citizen assistance amidst coronavirus outbreak
WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Mayor John Moore coordinated a meeting with Williams community leaders to address the latest developments of the coronavirus outbreak March 16.
“I want people to understand we know what is going on and we are on top of it,” Moore said. “And we want to take care of our citizens.”
Representatives from North Country Health Care, the Williams Police Department, Williams Unified School District, the Williams City Council and Safeway met for a round-table discussion.
Senior citizens and disabled residents in need of groceries, medicine, or basic essentials are encouraged to contact the Williams Police Department at (928) 635-4461 for assistance.
Marissa Rojas, clinic manager of North Country Health Care, advised the group that the clinic was open and conducting business as usual. She said Urgent Care is still open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Family Practice is still open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“If anything changes, we will let people know,” she said.
She said the clinic is following the CDC recommendations.
“Basically whatever the CDC tells us to do, that is what we are doing,” she said.
Rojas said the clinic does have coronavirus test kits, although the clinic is selective on who can be tested.
“It’s not necessary for everyone,” she said.
John Romero, a lieutenant with Williams Police Department said he attended a meeting with the Department of Homeland Security and said the use of personal protective equipment with officers was addressed.
“They do not recommend officers wear masks on traffic stops, but do suggest the officers wear protective gloves,” he said.
When dealing with sick individuals, officers will wear more protective gear.
Romero said anyone coming to the Williams Police Department building will be screened for the virus prior to entry.
The department also plans to remain proactive in their responses and enforcement activities.
“We need to be proactive to prevent things,” Romero said.
Williams Police Chief Herman Nixon, who is also a member of the Williams Unified School District Governing Board, said his greatest concerns include the closing of the schools and the health of the elderly in the community.
“Schools are not only an educational part of the community, but unfortunately we are also a babysitting kind of service too,” he said. “For some kids we are providing their only good meal that day.”
He said he was also concerned with children being unsupervised in the community.
“But I believe if we work through this as a community, we will get through this,” he said. “My biggest concern is what is the exit strategy?”
Nixon said he was also concerned with the hoarding of food at Safeway.
“Maybe we need to work as a community to limit the number of items taken out of the store,” he said. “We have elderly people who need these things who cannot get out into the community.”
Nixon said the police department is offering to assist anyone in the community with needs related to the coronavirus.
“If someone cannot get out and needs medications, we will get it for them,” he said.
Vice-mayor Don Dent and Moore also emphasized the importance of reaching out to the elderly in the community.
Although programs, classes and meals at the Williams Senior Center have been cancelled, the organization still plans to deliver meals to the elderly.
“We’ll just expand our outreach to the senior community,” Nixon said regarding assisting the senior center. “If people need food, groceries or whatever, we will do it.”
Williams Unified School District Superintendent Rick Honsinger said the district is being directed by the state on operations of the schools.
“Closing the schools closes the hub of where all these things happen,” he said referring to student interaction. “I guess the idea is to slow these things down, so we are going to do whatever the state requires us to do.”
He said administrators are still working through information received March 15 and are waiting for more updates
“We’re waiting for emails and other contacts today to tell us what to do,” he said.
The state has encouraged schools to find ways to continue to provide meals for students. He said the school is looking at options for creating meals and providing delivery.
“We’re basically in a holding pattern right now,” he said. “We’re on spring break anyway so we have a little bit of time.”
Honsinger anticipates that the state will continue to pay employees, although he is concerned about hourly employees.
Nixon said the WUSD Governing Board will be addressing wages at its next meeting. He said he believes the school will be able to find the funds to continue paying the staff.
“We do have options,” he said.
City Councilman Mike Cowen said he was pleased that the situation is being addressed within the community.
“I think it’s super important that we take care of our senior citizens and our youth,” he said.
A representative from the Williams Safeway said the store has reduced their hours. The store will be open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“Business is as usual,” he said. “If anyone calls in sick we have them stay home. Can’t tell you when we are getting toilet paper, but as soon as we get it we put it out.”
City Manager Chase Waggoner said city staff is coming up with a plan for the Williams Recreation Center.
“I’d like us to look at ways we can screen people coming into the rec center,” Dent said. “Maybe this is using a thermometer. We need to be able to check temperatures.”
Dent said city staff has begun looking at the city budget in the event there is a drop in sales tax revenue.
According to City Finance Director Barbara Bell, approximately 67 percent of Williams’ operating budget comes from sales tax and BBB tax revenues. In fiscal year 2018/2019 the city generated nearly $7 million in sales and BBB tax.
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