Amid rising COVID-19 numbers throughout the nation, the Foley council approved the authorization for the mayor to declare emergency powers as seen fit. During the 2020 pandemic, Foley staff created a pandemic plan which was approved by the previous council. The plan detailed phases to progress through depending on the situation of the pandemic. By giving the mayor this authorization, he can implement the phases depending on the severity of the COVID-19 resurgence.
“COVID has kind of exponentially exploded this summer, it’s a different animal than it was last year when there was no vaccine,” said Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich. “We’re going to try to protect our employees as much as possible … We will communicate as any steps are taken, and we’re going to implement some of the minor stages.”
Hellmich said phases of the pandemic plan were already being implemented, such as relocating the council meeting to the Foley Civic Center in order to socially distance attendees, council, and city staff.
Along with the authorization, the council also voted to once more implement 80 hours of COVID sick leave for vaccinated city employees. This sick leave allows vaccinated employees to take time off without utilizing their personal leave time. The council’s original COVID leave plan lapsed earlier in the spring.
“One of the thoughts behind this is it kind of incentivize our employees to get the vaccine that have not. And sometimes if you’re not a long-term employee and get sick you may not have a whole bunch of leave, and we don’t want people that have symptoms to show up at work,” said Hellmich. “So putting this back is kind of an incentive program that we want to utilize.”
Hellmich said Alabama is one of the highest percentage of infection rate in the nation, and that Baldwin County’s percent of infection rate is one of the highest within the state. Many places have begun offering vaccination clinics once more. The Baldwin County Health Department in Robertsdale is now offering all three vaccinations onsite, meaning for the first-time individuals can choose which dose they’d prefer to receive, according to Foley Fire Chief Joey Darby.
“People that are fully vaccinated are contracting COVID, but based on the numbers that we get those numbers are extremely low,” said Darby. “So there is evidence there that vaccinations are still working to some degree, but there are cases where folks fully vaccinated are getting sick … It’s here again, most cases they believe are the new variant, which is highly contagious. The surge is here, and we’re having to deal with it as best we can. Our hospitals are certainly very, very busy.”
To track COVID case numbers in Alabama and Baldwin County, visit arcg.is/0brSGj. From GulfCoastNewsToday.com.