HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - As COVID-19 cases rise in Mississippi, more employees of the City of Hattiesburg have been diagnosed with the virus.
Twenty-six city employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak in the state, with 12 of those positive cases coming in the last seven days.
The rise in employees with the virus has prompted the city to take action.
“This has been going on since late March, and so I understand that sometimes people get lax with it and it’s not the most comfortable thing,” Mayor Toby Barker said. “However, we’re reiterating to them it’s very important that you have to have your mask on, particularly when you’re around other people around the public.”
Barker has also brought back a restriction that was in place during the lockdown.
“Secondly, we’re closing a lot of city offices that are public-facing for the time being, at least to walk-in service,” Barker said. “They’ll still be available curbside and drive-thru like water billing, city hall, the cemetery office. Those things, while they’re necessary and important, put a lot of out employees at risk to a lot of people coming in.”
The full list of city offices closed for walk-in service are City Hall, water billing, community center reservations, cemetery office, engineering and the police records division.
The city will also allow anyone in a public-facing position over the age of 60, the at-risk group for the virus, to go on administrative leave for a week until the cases go down.
Several of the new COVID-19 cases among the city’s workforce are in the Hattiesburg Police Department, which has seen seven new cases in the last week. Not all of the employees who tested positive are sworn personnel.
The department is keeping with their protocols to limit the spread.
“We’re still continuing to do our social distancings along with everyone wearing masks,” said HPD public information officer Ryan Moore. “We still have everything in place that we had before. Everybody’s taking their temperature at the beginning of shifts. Everybody that comes to the building is also getting their temperature taken.”
Moore added that multiple times a week the employees are reminded that if they have symptoms to stay home and see a doctor.
The city also does contact tracing for anyone who tests positive for the virus. Anyone with direct contact to a positive case is isolated and tested before returning to work.