Q&A: New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart weighs in on coronavirus outbreak, more

Published on Tuesday, 24 March 2020 16:57
Written by Catherine Shen


NEW BRITAIN – As New Britain continues to face challenges due to the coronavirus outbreak, New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart emphasizes how important it is for residents to stay home, be vigilant in personal hygiene and educate themselves with the most accurate information. Amid all the panic and confusion, Stewart spoke to the New Britain Herald to respond to different concerns related to the city. She touches on aspects of the public health crisis, concerns for small businesses and reassures residents that City Hall is still active and working.

Q: It’s been a week since City Hall has only kept its first floor open to the public, how has that been like?

A: It’s been working very well. Our staff has been using lots of precautions and everyone who is coming here has been patient with us. People are staying home unless they have a real need to come to City Hall. It is not an ideal situation, but we are doing the best we can considering the circumstances. Both workers and residents are adjusting to the limited accessibility within the building. Our custodial crews are taking extra steps to clean and sanitize the building. We still would like to encourage everyone to call first before coming in; the main number to City Hall is 860-826-3300 and you will be taken to a menu of office options. City Hall hours are Monday through Friday, 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Q: With many surrounding City and Town Halls closing, do you still feel safe enough to remain open?

A: Government is an essential “business,” and we will continue to offer services to our residents and businesses during this time. We cannot close the doors to people who have the right to a functioning government.

Q: There are some who believe City Hall should be closed completely to the public and have employees work from home. Are there employees who can work from home versus those who cannot? What’s the infrastructure like for that?

A: City employees do not have the capability to work from home. I’m not sure how you would fill a pothole working from home or how you could obtain a copy of a birth certificate or file a death certificate, working from home. Employees who are worried about their health have every opportunity to use their accrued time and stay home. We have followed all guidance that has come down from the state government and the federal government on the critical infrastructure needs during a time of crisis. Almost all of our city departments fall underneath these essential categories. Besides, our taxpayers, the people who pay our salaries, deserve to know that we are always working for you.

Q: Will the recent two confirmed coronavirus cases in New Britain and rising numbers change how the city currently operates?

A: No.

Q: In your daily updates with hospital officials, how are they doing handling the situation? Are there enough beds, ventilators, personal protective equipment, medical supplies, nurses and doctors?

A: The Hospital of Central Connecticut is doing an incredible job managing this. We have had daily phone calls with hospital management teams to be sure that we are collaborating and staying in contact about our needs and to closely monitor the situation. There still have been only two patients and the hospital is confident that they have adequate plans in place to support a surge in cases.

Q: Will the Common Council meetings be held virtually? What will that process be like?

A: The Common Council meeting will be accessible by visiting www.newbritainCT.gov .

We will have a live player on the main screen. Public participation will be by phone call; that phone number will be published on the website as well.

Q: With the governor’s ongoing executive orders, the most recent one being the closures for non-essential businesses, how is that going to impact the city from what you can see so far?

A: We are most worried about our small business owners as we know that this closure is going to have a negative impact on them and their employees. It’s important for us to remember to support our small businesses whenever possible. We have been encouraging residents to do what they can to support those that are still open, especially our locally owned restaurants.

Q: How has the collaborations been with all the agencies, especially with the school district amid the closures?

A: All collaborations with all agencies in the city have been going very well, especially from an emergency response perspective. The school district is doing the best they can with what they have in order to make learning from home work.

Q: What is the overall feeling you’re getting from New Britain and its residents so far amid the ongoing situation?

A: I think most in the city are certainly feeling anxious. However, as long as all of us are following the directions coming from our leaders we will be through this in no time and I know we will come out stronger than ever.

Q: How are you doing personally?

A: I’m doing fine! It’s a stressful time to be mayor but I am calm, cool and collected. We’re getting through this together.

Q: What is a message you’d like to share with the residents who are facing different challenges with the coronavirus?

A: Think beyond yourself. That’s the phrase I have been using a lot lately and I think it most certainly applies to this critical situation. While we know that we need to control what we can in our own little worlds, it’s important to think about how our actions can impact those around us.

For more information, visit: www.newbritainct.gov or call 860-826-3300

Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Tuesday, 24 March 2020 16:57. Updated: Tuesday, 24 March 2020 17:00.