Officials with the City of Athens are updating COVID-19 protocols to ensure the safety of employees and citizens. Mayor Ronnie Marks said he is working with department heads as local COVID-19 numbers rise. He said cases are rising across the region.
“The hospital is having a surge,” he said. “All of North Alabama is … I’m trying to be cautious about the health of not only our employees, but our citizens.”
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, Limestone County is a moderate- to high-risk county with 1,042 positive cases in the last 14 days. Athens-Limestone Hospital reported 31 current COVID-19 positive patients on Monday. Six of those patients are in the intensive care unit, and two patients are on ventilators.
“I have asked department heads to reiterate with employees the importance of wearing masks, social distancing and sanitizing,” Marks said. “In addition, I have asked each department to set protocols in place regarding public access to their facilities.”
Marks said, for example, one of the biggest walk-in areas in the city is at Athens Utilities’ customer accounts, where people pay their utility bills, on South Jefferson Street.
“We have plexiglass up everywhere,” he said, adding the department has chosen to remain open with very limited accessibility to the building. “They will do temperature checks. They will do screening.”
Marks explained the protocols do not mean a total shutdown of city operations.
“I’m trying to be responsible to our citizens in a very difficult time in Limestone County and with what the country is facing with COVID cases,” he said. “We are just coming out of holidays, of Christmas and New Year’s. Flu season is high. We are going to be cautious … We are trying to be careful for all of our citizens.”
Offices are closed to walk-in traffic through Jan. 15, when this procedure will be reevaluated.
Employees are working, and each department is offering ways for citizens to remotely access employees, information and forms. Those with appointments will undergo a temperature check. The City’s website is www.athensal.us, which lists contact information for each department as well as information on payments, forms and services.
City Hall numbers include:
• Mayor’s Office:
• Building Department:
• City Clerk:
• Business Licenses:
• Fire Prevention Bureau:
• Human Resources:
• One Stop Shop:
The City of Athens cannot, by state law, close public meetings such as Council meetings but is offering options to view them online by live stream via YouTube at CityofAthensAla. Citizens who attend in person will undergo a temperature check.
Citizens who meet these criteria will be prohibited from attending meetings:
• Persons who have been, within the last 14 days, in any area identified by the CDC as subject to a Level 3 Travel Health Notice or as a place of “widespread sustained spread and restrictions on travel to the United States.” See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html for more information. The list may update;
• Persons who reside or have had close contact with someone who has been in one of the areas listed above within the last 14 days;
• Persons who have been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital or health agency.
• Persons who have been diagnosed with or have had contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or the flu; and
• Persons who have a fever 100.4 degrees or higher, cough or trouble breathing or are obviously unwell and have not been free of those conditions for 48 hours.
Athens Utilities customer accounts
The office is open. Employees are behind a barrier. Customers must wear a mask. A temperature check station is being installed.
Athens Police Department and Municipal Court
The front lobby is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for those who have business with police or court. Those who enter must wear a mask. No more than three people are allowed in the lobby at the same time. Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson encourages citizens to communicate by phone or email if possible. The main police number is 256-233-8710. Courtroom COVID-19 procedures remain the same.
Athens Fire & Rescue stations
Closed to walk-in traffic and visitors until further notice.
To obtain a burn permit, call Station 1 at 256-233-8710 and set up a time for personnel to check the proposed burn site. Once approval is given, personnel will call the applicant to provide the permit number and send an email with the permit attached.
To obtain a fire report, call Station 1 at 256-233-8710 to request a copy be emailed.
League basketball restarted Monday. Racquetball is limited to two people per court, and pickleball is limited to four people per session. Both require reservations. Fitness classes are being held, and participants are asked to adhere to restrictions that are in place for each activity. Currently, the Rec Center is not renting rooms. These protocols are subject to change as needed. Stay updated by following on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/AthensRecreationCenter
Athens Utilities on Wilkinson Street
The front lobby is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to those who have business with one of the utility departments. There are instructions at the front desk on who to call to be escorted to the appropriate office. Visitors must wear a mask.
Athens Public Works
Offices are closed to walk-in traffic. Numbers are listed on the front door. Please call 256-233-8725 for information.
Citizens can stay updated on City of Athens protocols related to the Limestone County Pandemic Standard Operating Guidelines through these options:
• City of Athens, Alabama (Public Relations) on Facebook;
• City of Athens website at www.athensal.us and look for the updates link on the homepage under “Athens News;” and
• By signing up for Nixle alerts at https://local.nixle.com/register/ and follow “City of Athens and Utilities.”
— Jessica Barnett contributed to this article.