This is What Communities Are Doing to Encourage Social Distancing

by Audrey Stewart, on March 25, 2020 at 10:06 AM

In the wake of Covid-19, local governments are faced with the responsibility and challenge of slowing the spread of the virus in their community. Leaders from across the country have shared with Localgov their unique tactics for encouraging or enforcing social distancing. 

Steven Buffington
Building Code Administrator
City of York, Pennsylvania 

In the City of York we are using fire department and property maintenance inspectors to enforce state ordered closures and city ordered reduced occupant loads. The Mayor has ordered a maximum occupant load of 50 and posted occupant loads are halved with the maximum of 50."

Bonnie Ace-Sattur
HR Director
Monroe County, Pennsylvania 

Here in Monroe County, PA, the Board of Commissioners have enacted a reduced workforce whereby only essential employees are working. Custodial employees are all working full time as are the Corrections Officers of course. About 80% of the employees are home and are being paid. Those that have the capabilities and job duties that allow them to are working from home. Our Corrections Officers, being essential/first responders, are working their regular schedules with normal pay per their contract."

Jeremy Warnick
Police Commissioner
City of Cambridge, Massachusetts 

As one component of its strategic response to COVID-19, the City of Cambridge has enacted several temporary emergency orders:

  1. Order that restricts customers at essential retail establishments from using reusable bags after purchasing retail products.
  2. Order requiring the closure of private businesses and activities in the city.
  3. Emergency Construction Moratorium on all construction activity on both public and private property until further notice
All COVID-19 related information is featured in a robust and dedicated website that all social media, reverse 911 calls, daily emails, and subscription-based outreach service are driving traffic to."

Brian Anderson
Council Member
Palm Bay, Florida

Very early on we knew this would be unlike anything we have dealt with before. Being a costal community, we are used to preparing for hurricane and this is nothing like that. With over 900 employees and 118,000 residents, it was important to declare a local state of emergency and only have essential personnel working. We started encouraging residents to tele-communicate, email request and set appointments for needed services instead of having to come to city hall. We are proactively policing the community to remind residents and businesses of the health department and CDC guidances of social distancing. Several council members and city staff along with our public safety chiefs post videos and updates and remind citizen we will get through this together."

Richard Roedner
Town Manager
Elon, North Carolina

Not sure about unique, but we have established an emergency order limiting gatherings up to 10 people, which is a lower number than our Governor has declared. We are working with our local University to make sure all students who are still on campus, or living off campus, are aware of this new rule. We are posting the 6' separation recommendation at trails and at our dog park, which are still open. We have reduced staffing at town facilities, not only to ensure continuance of operation, but also to keep people further apart. We have staff working from home, interacting via email, social media and meeting apps."

Robert Windhorst
Cibola County, New Mexico

We are following the NM Governor's proclamation and having all non essential businesses close for the time being. We are encouraging everyone to practice responsible social distancing and frequent hand washing. Restaurants are closed, except for take out. Non-essential staff are working from home. Schools are closed for three weeks. We started most of these precautions last week."

Adus F. Dorsey II
Head Building Official
Wayne County, Utah

Business as usual, not! In the Grand Scheme of things, like traffic on the highways lately, business in Wayne County is down but for the most part the outlook and attitudes for the future couldn’t be better. The overall mood of Wayne County business owners and their employees is as it should be, optimistic, and as one Loa business owner quipped, “We are staying focused on what is in front of us and doing the best that we can to do to maintain a daily routine.” At Brain Farm, it is clear that employees were taking Social Distancing seriously, but it was readily apparent that there is nothing wrong with sharing a genuine country smile."

David Foster
Council Member
Chestertown, Maryland

Well, first I think you are using the wrong term here. We need to encourage physical distancing (6 feet or more) while trying to shrink the social distance. Long before the pandemic of Covid-19, we had an epidemic of loneliness, particularly among the elderly. Loneliness is both a psychological problem and a physical one. Did you know that the health impacts of loneliness were the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day? Therefore, while we are encouraging people to keep physical distance and limit customers and meeting participants to no more than 10 people; we are also trying to encourage everyone to reach out to each other via phone, email, texts, and anything but tweets. Long before the politicians talked about "It takes a village," I think we instinctively knew that cabin fever was real. Therefore while we need to maintain physical separation to limit the spread of the Coronavirus, our public health officer still encourages people to get out of the house, work in the yard and go for walks or bike rides."

Arvin Tucker
Finance Director
Falfurrias, Texas

  1. Curfews.
  2. Gathering of limited number of people.
  3. City offices are operating with a small number of employees (skeleton crew).
  4. More use of social media to spread the message rather than meetings requiring the gathering of individuals at one place."

Russ Barley
Freeport, Florida

We have closed all eat in restaurants! Only drive through and pick up is available to our citizens, we also have asked the other businesses to offer pick up services and not be open to the public. All bars have been closed down until further notice and we are encouraging everyone to please stay quarantined at home. Our government offices are open but closed to the general public they can conduct business by phone, email or dropbox. We have distanced workers in the office spaces and all meetings and events have been cancelled until further notice."

KP Westmoreland
Bethany, Oklahoma

Bethany, like many neighboring cities, are a part of the OKC Metro area. 16 of us mayors are in a group text, so we can all try to stay on the same page and at the same pace, with the very fluid movement that COVID-19 has. Constant amendments to proclamations are needed, to add new guidelines, to help stop the spread of this pandemic. Social distancing, currently, includes: no more than 10 people in a group; a 6 foot distance between people (if possible); take-out/delivery only for all restaurants; and more closures of various businesses are constantly being looked at and discussed. A “stay at home” order is not what anyone wants, but might be closer than we think? The health, safety and well being, of our citizens, is priority #1. We will do whatever is needed, to ensure that our citizens are going to make it through this, as safely as possible."

Rosario Cabello
Interim City Manager
Laredo, Texas

Our library is doing online story telling and book reading. Our Health department is doing online yoga, tai chi classes, and cooking classes. Our PIO is posting information daily and sending out messages hourly."

Don Boeder
City of Gaylord, Minnesota

Gaylord has been very open with the public with many notices via website, Facebook, utility bill newsletter, business postings and local newspaper. And as officials of the city we are leading by example. I think for the most part things are going well but may have to work on the post office lobby and mail pickup more."

Robert McDermott
Village President
Random Lake, Wisconsin

We are following all recommended procedures that have been announced. Our staff is at a skeleton group avoid breaking the social distancing activities. We have a staff on duty that allows the Village to operate in a safe manner. I am very concerned about the elections on April 7th. The idea of voting on April 7th and the early voting process puts voters, poll workers, and office personnel as the risk we are trying to avoid. I believe these activities are causing exactly what we are trying to avoid. Thank You!"

Thurman Bartie
Port Arthur, Texas

Asking the citizens to distance themselves from each other when in groups of 10 or less. The number of cases in Port Arthur remain at zero, however, in Jefferson County we are at 6 confirmed. This is our first day of being able to test individuals at a public health drive thru station. The statistics may change now and we are the Testing sight for our five county area, within the City of Port Arthur, Texas."

Aime Wichtendahl
Council Member
City of Hiawatha, Iowa

Hiawatha city officials continue to closely follow the latest developments on the coronavirus (COVID-19) condition to ensure the health and safety of our community and to help ensure the actions we are taking are in line with the latest World Health Organization, Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations and guidance. Linn County Public Health (LCPH), is working closely with IDPH, the CDC, as well as local public and private partners to plan for prevention and response to the expanding global outbreak of COVID-19."

James Aziere
Raytown, Missouri

Respect and operation are not unique, at least in Raytown, a down home Southern community. We do our part to support the leadership of our nation and state government. If we don't make that a priority, then we will became part of the population who seems to have their own funny little program. That tradition led us to victory in both world wars."

Alan Vandersloot
Council Person
West York, Pennsylvania

West York Borough issued an emergency operations plan on March 13 to restrict access to the Borough offices. Payments due for fines or bills could be accomplished by alternative means. The fire company social hall cancelled scheduled bingo games for the near future. On March 24, all public parks in the Borough were closed to the public."

Ryan Boylston
Delray Beach, Florida

Our weekly morning show, Delray Morning Live, shifted its format from featuring events, happenings, and businesses—to featuring resources, non-profits, and helpful tips. This week the show will go live via Zoom to reinforce the importance of social distancing."

Dave Emanuel
Mayor Pro Term
Snellville, Georgia 

Snellville is working with our sister cities and Gwinnett County to develop a uniform approach to dealing with the coronavirus. We believe it is important to have consistent regulation and enforcement across our entire area. If that isn't the case, undesirable activity simply moves from one city to another or from a city to unincorporated county areas. Along with a number of other cities, we passed an emergency ordinance last week and we will be issuing further, uniform guidance this week. We haven't mandated shelter in place but have strongly encouraged it, along with adherence to CDC guidelines such as physical distancing and hand washing. We believe it is important to have a measured response and not bring undue hardship to our citizens and our businesses. Life goes on in spite of the coronavirus and it's important that we take the steps necessary to ensure our community can handle other critical needs of our citizens."

Joel Frieders
Yorkville, Illinois

We've resorted to Zoom web meetings, are staggering staff time on site, have postponed all parks and recreational sports and public events, and we're cleaning as much as possible while limiting person to person interaction."

Dwane Pacheco
Police Chief
Rock Springs, Wyoming

We are pushing the following message to social media, radio, electronic and traditional news outlets. We are asking coaches, teachers, clergy, students to say it and post it and it goes like this: "This is (your name or business) Police Chief Dwane Pacheco, as a community, we need to protect each other from spreading COVID -19. Do your part by following some simple preventative steps. Wash your hands, stay six feet away from others, and gather in groups with less than 10 people. This is a pandemic, not a party. Let’s do our part to keep Rock Springs (town) safe."

MaryAlice Adams
Governing Board Member
Benton Harbor, Michigan 

First let me extend our prayers and compassion to all of our neighboring communities as well. We’re not doing anything unique, other than living in the reality of what is as we hold on to hope within our strong faith based community. Other than letting our residents know the importance of following what protocol of respect set fourth to protect one another. We’ve closed our city government to the public, while continuing to conduct their business to keep things functional. With the help of extending water services by assisting no water turn off’s. And assuring we’re doing all we can as elected officials to allow as much normalcy as possible. Thank you!"

Brian Anderson
Council Member
Palm Bay, Florida

Very early on we knew this would unlike anything we have dealt with before. Being a costal community we are use to preparing for hurricane and this is nothing like that. With over 900 employees and 118,000 residents it was important to declare a local state of emergency and only have essential personnel working. We started encouraging residents to tele-communicate and email request and set appts for needed services instead of having to come to city hall. We are proactively policing the community to remind residents and businesses of the health department and cdc guidances of social distancing. Several council members and city staff along with our public safety chiefs post videos and updates and remind citizen we will get through this together."

Vicky Seltun
Human Resources Director
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

We are offering drive thru early voting in the parking lot of City Hall. There are four stations. As voters move through each station they are given instructions on how to either register or vote. Voters sit in their cars while they cast their ballots and then proceed to the last station to turn in their ballot. Wisconsin Governor Evers issued a "Safer at Home" order that goes into effect tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. Voting is an essential service, so it will be able to continue during the emergency order."

Sydney Thomas
Communications and Marketing Manager
Village of Channahon, Illinois

As with all communities currently affected by COVID-19, the Village of Channahon has felt the impact of the social distancing requirements in the face of this pandemic. None have felt this impact more so than our many locally owned and operated businesses and restaurants. We're a small community; few of our restaurants offered robust takeout or delivery programs prior to the mandated closures to better enforce social distancing. Within hours of the mandate coming through, we saw our residents and businesses rally together to ensure restaurants could keep bringing in revenue during this tough time and to avoid having to lay off employees. Restaurants have been supporting one another in the creation of takeout menus, delivery best practices and more to allow residents to remain at home safely and limit their social interactions as much as possible to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. And, our residents have been quick to support these establishments as much as possible."

Peggy Polk
Human Resources Director
Trussville, Alabama

We have closed all recreational facilities, libraries parks and Senior Citizen facilities. The State has mandated that all non-essential businesses close. Restaurants must have drive-through, carry-out or delivery services only. Our City Council meetings are held by Zoom in order to promote social distancing. Employees who can tele-work are allowed to do so."

Danica Lamontagne
Communications Coordinator
Biddeford, Maine

We are shifting our public meetings onto Zoom to allow our City Councilors to continue to their important work without putting their health at risk. What is especially exciting about all of this is that our residents will be able to participate in meetings from the comfort of their home. They can submit questions to the Council through a chat feature and will be able to 'raise their hand' to be called on to speak during public comment periods."

Topics:local governmentlocal leadershiphealth safety servicesazavarcovid-19social distancinglocalgov