While the governor has declared a state of emergency, it’s business as usual for the Housing Authority. The Housing Authority of Winston-Salem is not taking proactive measures to protect its residents from a potential Coronavirus/COVID19 outbreak.
Yesterday, after inspecting Crystal Tower’s lobby and first-floor common areas, I saw no signs that any measures had been implemented to address the potential spread of the Coronavirus Disease. Additionally, I spoke to a custodian at Crystal Towers that confirmed that no new cleaning or disinfecting measures were in place at Crystal. (I also stopped by Sunrise Towers and observed the same conditions) When I asked the receptionist at the front desk if hand sanitizer was available, she moved her small bottle of sanitizer from the back of the desk to the front of the desk, inviting me to help myself to it.
After visiting Crystal Towers, I then attended HAWS’ monthly meeting on West Fourth Street. At the meeting, City of Winston-Salem, Housing Authority director, Kevin Cheshire briefly mentioned his organization’s response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19):
Mr. Chairman, not to foment paranoia, but we are preparing for a kind of a skeleton crew in the event that the Corona virus affects our operations. We have identified folks who can work from home if that becomes necessary. And we have identified folks who are essential personnel and their backups. We are disseminating information about the sites, regarding the simple things, handwashing, maintaining your distance-that kind of thing. We are trying to get hand sanitizer to all of the work stations for the specialists. We are sanitizing the lobby areas and the common areas daily. So, we are trying to do all that we can to follow the CDC’s directives. So I just wanted you all to know that we are having those conversations and trying to prepare for the potential eventuality that we have significant amounts of our staff out. Whether it be because they are self-quarantined or because they are sick or because they have children who are unable to go to school.” -Kevin Cheshire
The Housing Authority should have already taken measures to prevent the potential spread of the Coronavirus at its properties. It seems their highest priority is determining which staff members can and cannot work from home in the event that an outbreak occurs. HAWS needs to take immediate steps to protect its tenants. Particularly the tenants at its three high rise towers; Crystal Towers, Sunrise Towers, and Healy Towers. Those three towers house predominately senior citizen populations that are extremely vulnerable to a potential Coronavirus Disease outbreak.
The Housing Authority needs to have meetings with residents at Crystal, Sunrise, and Healy Towers-educating them on best practices to avoid a potential virus outbreak. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes should be available at the front entrances and common areas of those three towers at all times. An aggressive cleaning and disinfecting schedule must be maintained. Daily cleanings are not enough.
The Housing Authority should imitate the measures Old Salem has taken:
— Old Salem Museum (@OldSalemInc) March 10, 2020
First and foremost, the residents at Crystal, Sunrise, and Healy need to be protected. But, there is, of course, a greater threat to the general population. If the Coronavirus Disease were to spread to Crystal Towers, that would endanger everyone downtown. An outbreak at Sunrise Towers has the potential to spread to East Winston. An outbreak at Healy Towers has the potential to spread to Stradford Road and Hanes Mall. By not adequately protecting the most vulnerable residents among us, the Housing Authority has put us all at higher risk of potentially coming into contact with the Coronavirus Disease.
The board of directors of the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem today went into closed session “to plan, conduct or hear reports concerning investigations of alleged criminal misconduct” today. Executive Director Kevin Cheshire told me he couldn’t provide any additional detail.
— Jordan Green (@jordangreentcb) March 10, 2020
Not taking active measures to protect tenants is tantamount to criminal activity in my book.