Fourteen city employees have had COVID-19 and 32 people have had to quarantine due to potential exposure since the pandemic began in March, and the Oak Ridge City Council will consider a resolution this evening that asks people to wear a mask, wash their hands frequently, avoid crowds, and maintain a distance from people outside their household.
All of the infected municipal employees have recovered, the City of Oak Ridge said in a brief statement in response to questions on Monday. The positive test results have been since March. It wasn’t immediately clear if the infections have been spaced out over time or if they have been clustered in any months.
Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson has recommended the precautions, according to a resolution that City Council will consider during a regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, November 9.
The precautionary measures are meant to help slow the spread of COVID-19, especially during the holidays and winter when a spike in cases is expected to occur as people spend more time indoors and gathered together.
If approved by Council, the resolution would ask residents, businesses, and visitors to use these precautions:
- wear face masks in public, when indoors, and when near others;
- keep hands clean by washing them frequently and using hand sanitizer;
- avoid crowds; and
- keep a six-foot distance from people who live outside your household.
These measures have been recommended by public health officials to help slow the spread of COVID-19, a new, sometimes deadly disease that often results in respiratory systems but can affect other parts of the body as well.
Earlier this year, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee gave county mayors the authority to require masks. Neither Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank nor Roane County Executive Ron Woody have done so. Although it has sought permission to do so if it chooses, the City of Oak Ridge does not have the authority to require masks.
The city has taken other steps to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 such as temporarily closing playgrounds and facilities, conducting many meetings online, and asking people to wear masks at City Council meetings, for example. However, a few residents have raised questions about whether more could be done, including by having more city employees wear masks while at work.
The City Council resolution is being considered as new cases rise for the third time nationally and for the second time in Tennessee and Anderson County. The current upward trend in new COVID-19 cases has surpassed the July peak.
The City Council meeting is in the Oak Ridge Municipal Building Courtroom. You can see the agenda here. The city currently sets up a limited number of seats at Council meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can watch the meeting online here.