South Pasadena residents heard the advice and, according to the person overseeing the city, have followed it well, recognizing early the best defense against COVID-19 is staying at home, washing hands frequently, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth and by practicing physical distancing.
In the weeks since the coronavirus has taken its toll worldwide, Stephanie DeWolfe is appreciative of South Pasadenans, and grateful for the steps they have taken and endured in slowing its spread.
Following the county mandate, residents must remain indoors except for the essentials – grocery shopping, restaurant take-out and doctor’s visits. Face coverings are required outside the home and the Safer at Home order prohibits public gatherings and has closed hiking trails, recreation areas and non-essential businesses. Further, students locally and throughout the nation, are adapting to a new way of life at home completing class work through distance-learning.
DeWolfe knows South Pasadena residents have experienced plenty of hardship, but says they are handling a difficult, trying and taxing situation well, and is pleased by what she has seen and heard.
“We will get through this,” she said. “I know that there is a lot of uncertainty right now but we are seeing positive signs that following the Safer at Home orders are working. We need to continue to practice these measures and take these orders seriously in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. One of the things that make South Pasadena such an extraordinary place is that our community is not only resilient but also kind and generous. We are all dealing with an unprecedented pandemic and seeing our community come together to take care of each other in times of adversity is really special.”
In a Q&A, DeWolfe talks about how South Pasadena residents have adapted to a new way of life. Here is what she had to say:
Q: How are South Pasadenans doing in your mind when there’s a safer at home order by the county and state, only to go outside for essential items? What have you seen and heard?
A: “Our community is really taking the Safer at Home order to heart and for the most part diligently following the orders to practice social distancing, staying 6 feet apart when in public, going out only for essential items and wearing cloth masks.
We do have to remind people, however, not to congregate in the parks. It’s hard not to, especially with spring weather around the corner. Walking, jogging or biking with appropriate distance is fine, but please don’t forget, just because you’re outside doesn’t mean the social distancing rules don’t apply.
It’s also been heartwarming to see how people are taking care of each other. Volunteering to buy groceries, checking in on each other, and creating new ways to stay connected are all important components of getting through this successfully. South Pas is great at coming together as a community.
I’m confident we will continue to follow these protocols in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 and will come out of this stronger than ever. There’s strength in small towns and tight communities that help us weather these storms.”
Q: How proud are you of the first responders – local police and fire officials – who are at the frontline of the pandemic?
A: “The City of South Pasadena’s Police and Fire personnel have done an extraordinary job responding to this quickly changing situation. They have prepared for this outbreak and procedures have been put in place to protect our first responders as well as members of our community.
Our Fire Department is fully staffed and ready to respond to any emergency calls that come in. In addition, our Police Department has increased its patrols of our parks and other areas where people tend to gather to ensure social distancing protocols are being followed.
I think our residents also know that, despite their readiness, our police and fire personnel are putting their health and safety in jeopardy every day when they do their jobs. That’s one reason the community is following the County orders as carefully as possible to reduce the spread of the virus to everyone, including our first responders.”
Q: With your employees working from home, what adjustments have you made to make it happen? Has it been working? How do you keep the city “open?”
A: “The city is definitely open! Our City Hall and facilities may be closed but our employees continue to work and provide vital City services. With exception to our first responders, public works operations team and senior Dial-A-Ride and lunch delivery, our City services are taking place virtually, and our team seamlessly provides a complete range of services to our residents.
We have staff in all departments answering calls and responding to emails during regular business hours. Residents interested in anything from obtaining a planning permit to accessing our Library’s e-books can visit our webpage, southpasadenaca.gov/residents/city-services to learn how to access our city services.
The most important tool for us right now is obviously technology. A few of the new platforms we have introduced are electronic plan submittal and plan check, virtual recreation programs, a new web portal that allows for credit card payments online, and significantly increased digital programs and resources through the library.
In addition, the City’s recent migration to an automated payroll system and a new water billing system have also allowed us to provide higher levels of customer service through web-based platforms despite the fact that staff is working remotely.
If there’s a silver lining in all of this, it’s that we have been able to push into new technology faster than we otherwise would have. These new resources will remain in place when the crisis is over and continue to elevate customer service.
I’m extremely proud of our employees who are all excited to implement new technology and find new ways to provide services remotely. This is an unforeseen challenge for them and they are stepping up to meet the moment in a big way. They love to serve our residents and will continue to be creative and responsive for as long as it takes.”
Q: What steps has the city taken to keep South Pasadena residents safe? The health and safety of our residents come first.
A: “We have an outstanding team of department heads right now and they are each highly engaged with developing safety protocols within their area of expertise. The Senior Center for example shifted from serving sit-down meals for seniors to having the meals delivered to them at home and providing additional frozen meals to carry them through the weekend. Eliminating large gatherings of seniors was a critical early step in protecting the health of our residents.
Another example is the water division staff who have been split into rotating shifts to ensure they do not overlap and possibly transmit infection throughout the team. This strategy helps ensure that we are never without operators for our water system. And our police and fire personnel have developed new protocols to ensure their safety, not only on the streets, but also to protect against transmitting infection at the stations as well. Keeping our first responders healthy is one of the most important things we can do to ensure the safety of our residents.
The city’s leadership team members are engaged with public health officials, state and local agencies, and their peers in neighboring jurisdictions on a daily basis. This allows the team to always be linked to the latest developments, trends and technology that informs our strategies to ensure we are prepared to implement necessary prevention strategies quickly and efficiently.
This is a fluid situation, and we continue to quickly adapt our City operations to the new health orders. We are regularly communicating new information on COVID-19 with our community through multiple channels, including our website, e-newsletter, social media and the media, to ensure they have the updated information they need to stay safe.
In addition, our police and fire departments are fully staffed and ready to respond to calls as they come in, and we have protocols in place to protect our first responders and the public during this time.”
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: “It’s important to remember that we are all experiencing trauma right now and handling it in very different ways. We may be feeling anger, frustration, fear, grief, or many other difficult emotions as the situation continually changes. Everyone has their own way of dealing with these challenges and their own pace. We may not even know the personal, financial, or family struggles of those around us. As the days tick off, it will get harder and we’ll all get a little stir crazy. Let’s remember that the key to getting through this together, and coming out stronger on the other side, is patience and kindness.
And, please don’t hesitate to reach out for support when you need it. Everyone has good days and bad days right now. Whether it’s friends or family, or a professional, the help you need is there. There are several mental health resources available through the County of Los Angeles and accessible on our website.”