Petersburg’s borough assembly Sunday approved a shelter in place advisory for the community. It strongly urges people in Petersburg to stay at home as much as possible to slow the spread of coronavirus. It also asks non-essential businesses to consider a two-week closure or to take other steps to limit contact between employees and customers. It’s two days after the assembly passed an emergency ordinance that could lead to stronger measures in the future.
The assembly met Sunday afternoon to vote on a public health alert, which is an advisory, asking for residents and businesses to take measures to limit contact between community members and practice social distancing. The borough’s incident commander Karl Hagerman recommended this as a first step.
“The reason that we are taking this step first is a lot of social distancing, a lot of good practices have been displayed in the community,” Hagerman said. “It’s not 100 percent but we’re getting there. This is a reinforcement of those behaviors and it is a good next step, without being too heavy-handed in the application of the emergency ordinance that was just passed two days ago.”
Things are changing rapidly. On Friday the assembly approved that emergency ordinance giving the assembly, manager or incident commander for the borough the authority to impose a curfew or other restrictions to public conduct and freedoms. Assembly members on Friday talked about hoping not to have to implement such drastic restrictions. Here’s vice mayor Jeigh Stanton Gregor during that meeting.
“My sincere hope is that we won’t need to implement any of the things outlined in this ordinance,” Stanton Gregor said Friday. “I agree with pretty much everything the people in the letters wrote. I want us all to be going about our business as normal as possible right now. I thought the general manager of Hammer and Wikan spoke very well in his letter that people have been by and large extremely respectful of social distancing, extremely patient, the people at the store, extremely patient with one another, not impulse hoarding. Simply put from what I’ve seen in the community we all have this understanding that we are in this together no matter what. We’re going to face whatever’s coming and we’re all going to do our best.”
That emergency ordinance passed unanimously Friday. It’s only effective for 60 days. But it does create 500 dollar fines in the case of a curfew, prohibition on public gatherings, business closures or other mandated restrictions. Again, the borough has not yet reached the point of mandating that people stay at home.
Dozens of community members over the weekend contacted the borough asking for exactly that, saying it is time for an enforced order to stay at home. Many are concerned that people are not taking the spread of the virus seriously and doing their part for social distancing. Petersburg Medical Center sent a letter of support for any measures the borough could take to reduce community spread.
Assembly member Bob Lynn was the only one who missed Sunday’s meeting but he wrote in against a mandated stay at home order. Others sounded supportive of this as a first step and meeting again to vote on requiring stay at home.
“Making it a mandate sounds like there’s a lot more to it but I think this is a good start,” said mayor Mark Jensen.
The health alert strongly urges people to shelter in place, limit their trips to stores and practice good hygiene and social distancing. It also asks businesses that are not essential to close for 14 days or take other measures for limiting spread. It urges 14 day self isolation for anyone returning to the community from anywhere else.
Mayor Jensen was hopeful that a future order from the borough would not limit isolated outdoor time.
“One thing I would really hate to see is if a person couldn’t jump in their car, go out the road and go for a walk on a logging road, if they’re with their significant other or family members, pets, just to be able to get out and not be stuck in your house,” Jensen said. “So we need to be aware of that as we move forward in my opinion.”
Assembly members agreed to direct staff and the attorney to draft a stay at home mandate that could be voted on at a future meeting. All assembly members attended Sunday’s meeting by phone. That’s better social distancing than two days before, when four of the seven called in.
In addition to radio, newspaper and online communication, the borough will be sending out mailers to post office boxes. At the same time assembly members urged community members to limit their trips to the post office where there are no restrictions on public access.