El Centro Keeps Public Informed With Another Update
El Centro Fire Chief Ken Herbert listens to a resident during a special City Council meeting to talk about coronavirus concerns in El Centro on March 27. | WILLIAM ROLLER PHOTO

El Centro Keeps Public Informed With Another Update

EL CENTRO — For the second consecutive the El Centro City Council on March 27 convened a special meeting to keep the public and city officials updated with latest developments on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I personally feel these meetings are important to allow the public an opportunity to engage health experts and our public safety agencies so they can ask questions,” said Mayor Efrain Silva.

“I could have gotten answers making phone calls on my own,” he added, “but I feel based on information from the El Centro Regional Medical Center the city is well prepared for possible increased COVID-19 cases and we have the capacity to confront any escalation of the pandemic should it occur.”

Silva cited an imminent upward trend of caseload according to the county Public Health Department and the federal government, as well as throughout California. However, there was an expectation improvement could be on the horizon.

“Our efforts with social distancing in El Centro are having a positive effect,” he emphasized. “Some of our retailers are now limiting the number of customers at any one time in their stores. What is more, retailer efforts to clean and sterilize store fixtures daily are admirable. But this public forum was the appropriate thing to do.”

The meeting was live streamed on the city’s Facebook page and will continue to be posted. An April 3 meeting is planned.

Silva urged residents to follow the recommendations of healthcare professionals.

“Don’t go out unless you need to,” he reminded. “All our public officials are working hard to see this through to the end (of the pandemic) as we look forward to a return to normality.”

Emergency Workers Standing Ground

Fire Chief Ken Herbert, director of the Emergency Operations Center, assured its work will continue and measures to protect residents and business employees are being implemented. The Center is looking forward to the Congressional pandemic economic relief package that could subsidize 75 percent of COVID-19-related expenses, he added.

“We urge the public to adhere to social distancing and before going out please consider there’s a high level of individual responsibility,” said Herbert. “First responders and government officials pledge to do their part yet the public cannot ignore their individual responsibility.”

Firefighters are aware they work a dangerous job that can expose them to toxic chemicals or disease, Herbert added. But he repeated his confidence in his team and noted they strive to remain healthy by not co-mingling their fire crews from shift to shift.

“As of today we’re not relaxing rules taking on retired firefighters into active duty,” he said. “Some fall into the category of high-risk with underlying health conditions.”

Enforcement Efforts

Police Chief Brian Johnson praised the city staff and the Emergency Center for their efforts. Non-essential businesses have closed and he addressed talk of businesses cited for price gouging. The police have investigated several cases of purported gouging yet all have proved unfounded, he explained. Yet one business with multiple complaints was investigated the day of the special meeting.

“If shoppers suspect gouging, save your receipts so we can build a case,” Johnson advised. “That retailer with repeated complaints we visited today and put him on notice.”

Council Member Cheryl Viegas-Walker noted one unexpected trend during the pandemic was fewer police or fire department assistance calls but she said she was uncertain if the trend would continue. She also took comfort that El Centro Regional, though well-equipped, is still stocking supplies since it is expected the positive cases will continue to rise.          

“This meeting helped us realize we cannot rely on social media for information,” Viegas-Walker cautioned. “There are several reputable websites to receive accurate information, including the California Office of Emergency Services, County of Imperial, ECRMC and the city of El Centro.”

This story is featured in the April 2, 2020 e-Edition.

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