Mayor Fischer, economic and business leaders, discuss Healthy at Work as economy prepares to re-open
Mayor Greg Fischer today hosted a tele town hall focused on the challenges facing local businesses as they begin reopening amidst the COVID-19 crisis. He was joined by Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, chief of Louisville Forward; Connie Mendel from the Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness; Mark Mattingly from Koch Filter; and Jack Mathis from Work the Metal.
As the state moves into the Healthy at Work phase, Mayor Fischer highlighted the key pieces he believes will determine the success of re-opening the economy. These include businesses adhering to Governor Beshear’s 10 Rules to Re-Opening, as well as increased testing capacity, contact tracing, and citizens continuing to engage in preventive measures.
“How we interact with each other when we go out is key,” said the Mayor. “Do we maintain social distance? Are we wearing our face masks? Are we washing our hands? These critical measures have shown how effective they are at stopping the disease from moving. I’m really proud and grateful of our city. So far people have done their job and that’s why we have been able to flatten the curve. Our hospital system did not get overrun. And it has put us in a position now where we can gradually return to work.”
Starting yesterday, a number of business sectors were eligible to return to work, including essential manufacturing, construction, vehicle dealerships, office businesses at 50% capacity, horse racing (without fans), pet care, and photography services. More businesses will be eligible to reopen in the weeks ahead.
Mark Mattingly, Vice President and General Manager – Air Filtration with Koch Filters said the company was deemed an essential business early in the pandemic for the services they provide for hospitals, Federal buildings, and military facilities.
“We took a very active and proactive way to communicate with our employees, to try and build confidence so they felt safe coming to work,” Mattingly said. “We took a number of steps to make sure that we could maintain six to eight feet social distancing. We did temperature scanning immediately upon entering. We provided face masks and gloves daily. We increased break time to allow for handwashing and we changed our schedules around to make sure we minimized contact with people, like with shift changes. We also communicated with employees where the products go, whether Federal buildings or hospitals downtown, so they were aware of the role that they played in this pandemic.”
Another business that has had to rethink how they conduct business is local retailer Work the Metal. Its plan to reopen starts with making team members feel safe and comfortable returning to work and serving the public. Owner Jack Mathis said that they have added sneeze guards, more checkout stations, and hand sanitizer at every register and entry point. The store will also have social distancing reminders and they will limit the number of customers in the store at one time.
“You also have to make sure you have adequate PPE for employees. Masks for everyone. Gloves for everyone. Plenty of hand sanitizer and hand soap. Just making sure that your team members feel comfortable. If customers see that we are taking care of the employees, they will know that we’re taking care of the customers as well,” said Mathis.
Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, Chief of Louisville Forward, said her team in economic development started with their own version of emergency response as states started to shut down and they began to worry about how businesses could keep the doors open, pay folks, and ultimately survive.
“We’ve already talked to over 800 businesses to help them get the resources that they need,” said Wiederwohl. “Now we are moving from the response phase to the reopening phase. Working with our partners, our state and local chambers, communicating to businesses about the reopening stage—helping them find PPE, masks, Plexiglass shields. And once we get reopened, talking about the recovery phase (Phase Three) and how we make sure we have a really strong business sector going forward.”
Phase Three of the Mayor’s plan is comprised of a long-term economic recovery plan which includes the Build Back Better, Together initiative. The Mayor asked all Louisvillians to weigh in on the recovery effort at www.louisvilleky.gov/government/build-back-better-together.
Connie Mendel, Assistant Director with Metro Public Health and Wellness said the department is working with businesses to ensure they are safe, including responding to complaints about businesses from the public.
“Our folks regularly inspect food service facilities that we permit throughout the city, about 4,000,” said Mendel. “During the pandemic we’ve shifted gears to respond to complaints we’re receiving from the public, over 2,400 at this point. What we do is initially reach out to the business owner to make them aware of the complaint, discuss their operations and processes, advise and give them guidance. Overwhelmingly we have seen really great work in the community from businesses.”
During Kentucky’s phased reopening, restaurants will be required to limit occupancy to 33% of their fire capacity. While there is no specific requirement at present for restaurants regarding PPE, owners are advised to reach out to their health inspectors or the Health Department directly for assistance and additional guidance. Restaurants not following the reopening guidelines can be reported by calling 311.
“Our collective goal—public health and economic development—is compliance,” added Mary Ellen Weiderwohl. “We don’t want to shut anybody down. We want to help you get to compliance. That is our goal every day so that you can stay open to serve your customers.”
To watch a replay of today’s tele town hall, go to www.facebook.com/MayorGregFischer.
As of Tuesday, there have been 133 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Louisville, bringing the total to 1,808 with 1,065 recoveries. There have been four additional deaths since Monday. The confirmed Louisville total is 123.
Currently, 58 members of LMPD, Louisville Fire, Metro EMS, Metro Corrections and the Sheriff’s Office are off-duty due to COVID-19:
- 21 are off with positive tests and in self-isolation.
- 26 are off and quarantined due to exposure to someone with a positive test.
- 11 are “screened off” with symptoms and tested, or due to be tested, but have not received test results.
Positive test numbers for first responders/public safety since the incident began:
- 43 positive tests.
- 22 have fully recovered and returned to duty.
Metro Corrections inmate data for May 12:
- 370 inmates have been tested.
- 2 positives.
- 2 tests are pending.