Conway City Council abandoned a proposed stay-at-home ordinance Monday after Gov. Henry McMaster issued a similar statewide order earlier that afternoon.
But city officials are continuing to grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public services.
During Monday night’s council meeting, city administrator Adam Emrick said that while no city employees have tested positive for COVID-19, nearly 40 employees are not working as a result of the virus.
“We’ve shifted a lot of operations around to keep things afloat for now,” he said. “But as this thing continues to progress, we know that we’ll have to change the way we’re doing things across the board.”
Twenty-five employees are on voluntary temporary leave and most of them work in the recreation department. Nine individuals are self-quarantining because they are either showing symptoms of the disease or they have come in contact with someone who has the virus or is being tested for it.
The city’s solid waste department is down six workers and seven are out in finance.
Starting Tuesday, the drive-thru window at the city’s finance department will have shorter hours. Instead of the normal 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, the window will open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
City officials are not discontinuing water service for nonpayment at this time, and they are encouraging customers to pay their water bills online. There will not be an additional fee for using the electronic payment option.
For recycling services, city officials are asking people who are quarantined or have tested positive for COVID-19 not to recycle during this time. They are also requesting that all trash be bagged before it's placed in cans.
“Please be patient with us and we’ll continue these services for as long as possible,” Emrick said. “A lot of solid waste departments throughout the country are ending both bulk service and yard debris pickup for this reason.”
Conway’s playgrounds and tennis courts are closed and basketball rims have been removed from backboards to ensure social distancing. Parks will remain open for walking, biking and jogging. The Riverwalk will also stay open.
City officials had initially planned to discuss a stay-at-home ordinance Monday. As of Friday, McMaster had resisted enacting such a policy, despite pressure from some residents and local officials who wanted stricter regulations.
Shortly before Conway's council meeting, the governor issued a new executive order.
“It is now time to make these recommended actions required,” McMaster said. “Why is it time? … Too many people are on the roads. Too many people are on the waters. Too many people are in the stores. Too many people are not complying with our requests regarding social distance. We’ve asked, we’ve urged, we’ve suggested … the last week has shown that it’s not enough.”
Councilwoman Jean Timbes said she’s pleased with the governor’s stay-at-home order and she hopes it will assist city officials in their efforts to slow the spread of the virus, which is expected to peak locally in the coming weeks.
“That will help us be better equipped to manage what’s coming,” she said. “Certainly maybe to lessen what’s coming. … We all need to take care of each other. We’ve always been good at that. That’s a strong suit for Conway.”