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City of Laurel institutes coronavirus precautions, will hold virtual town hall

The city of Laurel is hosting a virtual town hall meeting Thursday to inform the public on preparations for a possible outbreak of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

While the doors to Municipal Hall will be open for the meeting at 7 p.m., the meeting is designed to be virtual, with a live feed on LaurelTV.org and on the Laurel TV Official YouTube channel.

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Mayor Craig Moe, Laurel Emergency Manager Stephen Allen Sr. and health experts, including Laurel Chief Health Officer Dr. Uzochukwu Unegbu, will talk about the city’s plans and answer question citizens may have.

“We want to get information out to the general public,” Moe said. “We don’t want anyone to overreact.”

Moe said he has been meeting with city employees throughout the week to ensure that all city departments are properly informed and equipped to take care of themselves and the public.

It begins with basic preventative steps, Moe said.

City employees are encouraged to stay home from work if they are feeling ill and supervisors have the right to send employees home if they see they are ill. The city, Moe said, “is relaxing its policy on sick leave” and working from home.

Various scenarios have already been staged on how the city would operate, Moe said, if 40% of the staff became ill, for example. All contact information for each employee was reviewed and updated, too.

“Wash your hands, cover your coughs and if you’re not feeling well, stay home,” Moe said.

Hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed in many city buildings, and signs are in place to encourage people to wash their hands.

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Many city buildings will close for a short period of time each day to receive a thorough wipe down. The Municipal Center will close from 4:30 to 5 p.m. The Department of Public Works will close at 3:30 p.m. instead of 4 p.m.

Department of Public Work employees who collect trash were advised on what to do if a trash bag broke open or ripped, and how to handle recyclable items such as water bottles.

“Somebody could be sick or have the flu. Employees have to be careful of tissues, water bottles,” Moe said. “We have to make sure they have the proper tools and items. There are different types of gloves.”

City police officers also have to be careful, Moe said, as they “go into different homes” and interact with the public regularly.

“If they see someone sick, they should make sure their supervisors are aware,” Moe said.

All jail cells will be thoroughly cleaned and police cars, too, will be regularly cleaned.

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As of Tuesday, the city had no plans to cancel any events. It is following guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maryland Department of Health.

The virtual Laurel town hall meeting will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. People can call in their questions to 240-294-1308 or email them to LaurelOEM@laurel.md.us.

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