By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- As the City of Oxnard readjusts to life with the coronavirus pandemic, City Manager Alex Nguyen stays on top of all the latest developments and stays prepared to adjust as things can change rapidly.
The city is following all the directions it receives from the CDC (Center for Disease Control), the state health department, and the county health official to keep people safe and healthy.
The city has emergency protocols in place for events, like an earthquake, and those protocols have been adapted for this pandemic.
At the local level, Nguyen said the city has nothing to do with the medical side of testing for the virus.
"We absolutely stand ready, should the county ask us to provide any spaces for health or testing facilities," he said. "As part of our emergency operations plan, we have potential locations already, and we stand by and are ready to support the county."
As far as locations go, he said the city has a few sites, but the school district has cafeterias and gymnasiums available.
"In regards to the issues at the governor's level, they're working them out; and we're waiting to see how those things will be implemented," Nguyen said. "The governor has been discussing the possibility of using hotels and motels. That's a different level of responsibility and authority. Our job is to do the things we have influence and authority over within our jurisdiction and coordinate closely with other counties and the state."
Nguyen commits to doing his best to prevent issuing any furloughs to city employees because of the virus.
"We are in the process of the social distancing measures, and we are going to have as many people as possible work from home," he said. "In regard to the programs that have been suspended, we're going to find other work for people to do. We're going to do everything we can not to cut off anyone's paycheck."
The virus has not affected the city's budget yet, he said, but the city will use some of its resources to acquire supplies it will need.
"Right now, that is very little, but it depends on what happens at the regional, state, and national level," he said. "It depends on how well the flattening the curve (of people infected with the virus) effort goes that dictates what type of response we have in the next several weeks."
For now, the city's budget is okay.
"If we're required to purchase various resources at a significant number, we'll have to cross that bridge when we get there," he said. "That would be a problem for us because we are on the razor's edge already with our budget."
Currently, the city treasurer's front counter for utility billing and business licenses will be closed indefinitely.
Approximately 15 percent of the city's customers use the service center to do their business.
"We have drop boxes with clear instructions," Nguyen said. "We sent out notices last week, that we are waiving late fees during this emergency. We're also not going to make any shutoffs during this emergency, regardless of people's accounts."
The Oxnard Police made the rounds over the weekend to check on crowd control issues at the grocery store.
The city has not reached a point where it's locking everything down, he said, but it can happen at any moment.
Nguyen advises people to pay attention to official notices from places like that CDC (Center for Disease Control), the county public health official, and any notice that comes from the city.
"There's so much information online right now, and it elevates the anxiety," he said. "We fully understand there is anxiety and fear, and we feel it ourselves. A lot of this remains unknown, and there is no clear ending. This is one of those moments that we hope that most of us call on our better angels."
For now, he feels that people understand that everyday life has changed, for now.
"My responsibility as a city manager, in terms of things that we have authority and jurisdiction over, is to make sure our public safety services remain at 100 percent, as well as our utility services," he said. "We don't do medical services; we don't do testing, and we don't have the doctors and nurses. We have police, fire, and utility staff. I need to make sure that all of those run at 100 percent. It would become a problem if we didn't deliver those services."
He thinks that California is doing a great job in responding to the coronavirus.
"The governor is doing great; our county officials are doing great; we are getting a terrific partnership and collaboration from the county," he said. "The next two weeks are crucial to mitigating the spread of this virus."
The Oxnard Police and Fire Departments have excellent training to handle anyone who been exposed to the coronavirus.
"That's a good thing," he said. "The command staff has everyone at heightened alert, and I am positive they discuss it."
Nguyen said the entire city council is healthy, but half of them will teleconference into the meeting.
"Considering where the world is heading, we may get into a purely teleconferencing meeting for a while," he said. "We have to balance out the need to conduct city business with everyone's safety. We need everyone to be healthy in order to take care of everything and help us."