City of Jonesboro provides April 1 Tornado, COVID-19 Update
As workers joined City of Jonesboro employees Wednesday in continuing recovery and cleanup effortsfrom Saturday’s EF3 tornado, Mayor Harold Perrin reminded residents of the city’s initial emergency: the imminent danger presented by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“There was a moment when we had to deal with the clear and present threat created by the tornado,” Perrin said. “But there is no excuse for ignoring the need for social distancing. We are screening every employee in every department to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus in this city.
“We have sent home employees who were running a fever. It made me realize that sometimes when you’re working, you can have a fever and not even realize it. So it’s important to run a thermometer over everyone who enters your door.”
Fever of 100.4 or greater is one symptom of COVID-19, but it is not a universal one.
“It’s a smart practice, but you don’t catch everyone who might be exposed to COVID-19 with a thermometer,” Perrin said. “That’s why social distancing is so critical.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson explained Wednesday that outdoor recreation is still good, so long as it’s done while distancing. He also closed state parks to overnight campers, and Jonesboro is following the governor’s lead with a similar policy at Craighead Forest Park.
“We will not allow any new campers, but current campers will be allowed to remain,” Parks Director Danny Kapales said.
Perrin reiterated that even though parks have been closed, trails will remain open only as long as residents can display responsible distancing while using them.
“I will not stop repeating that we must be keeping proper distances,” Perrin said. “I do it. I expect city employees to do it. And I expect our citizenry to do it.
“We are dealing with the after-effects of the tornado. But we are not out of the woods yet on this emergency.”
Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board executives were in damaged neighborhoods Wednesday, telling homeowners how to find licensed crews for cleanup and rebuilding.
Police Chief Rick Elliott said opportunists who might take advantage of tornado victims have been run out of town.
“We saw no unauthorized vendors working in the neighborhoods today, and it’s made residents feel safe,” Elliott said. “Workers have been vetted, and when people see the licensed local companies, it gives them some confidence.”
Elliott also said most streets are reopened.
“We’re down to AT&T and Suddenlink doing some last operations, and the intersection of Race and Caraway is going to require some time,” Elliott said. “But most streets are clear.”
JPD has been running 12-hour shifts but will return to regular eight-hour shift Thursday morning. Elliott also said the Turtle Creek Mall command post will close.
“Chain-link fence will be placed around the mall property, and mall security is in place to guard against trespassers or looters,” he said.
Elliott and Perrin have left the 10 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew in place until further notice, as it has proven effective in the fight of both the tornado response and the COVID-19 fight.
“Cities all over the country are taking this measure, if not more stringent ones, and they haven’t had a tornado in addition to coronavirus,” Perrin said. “So we have been able to manage the tornado without major incident, and preventing nighttime get-togethers will play a role in preventing coronavirus spread.”
Perrin said though tough times remain, he looks forward to the day lives can be lived as usual.
“There is a light at the end of this,” he said. “It’s a just a courage check, and we are resilient, sincere, loving people. So I have no doubt we will get through this and look back with pride in how we handled it.”