COVID-19 testing is now available to City Hall staff after Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias announced that he is going into quarantine because his 8-year old son contracted COVID-19.
Arias presided over the city council meeting last Thursday, held in-person at council chambers. It was the first time the council held a meeting there since shutting down March 25 and taking meetings online.
“This weekend, my family became among the nearly 4,500 Fresno County residents to be diagnosed with COVID-19. We have followed Fresno County Public Health Department guidance, notified affected parties, and are all receiving the necessary medical attention,” Arias wrote on Facebook.
“Like the many other affected families in our county, we remain positive and confident we will recover soon. Once again, I ask that everyone take all necessary precautions, including wearing a mask because the lives of our loved ones depend on it,” Arias wrote.
The council returned to Zoom meetings with today’s budget meeting. Additionally, council staff will once again work remotely after previously returning to City Hall.
Several members of the community wished Arias and his son well during the public comment period today.
Karbassi Staying at Hotel to Protect Father
Councilman Mike Karbassi said he is staying at a hotel to avoid contact with his 78-year-old father.
“I can’t risk (my father’s health). It’s frustrating because he relies on me for a lot of things and because of COVID-19, he stays at home, he’s sheltering in place. So now, I’m having to scramble to get friends and family to help him out at the same time.” — Fresno City Councilman Mike Karbassi
Karbassi sat next to Arias last week on the dais. The chamber was retrofitted for social distancing, including clear plastic dividers between council members and in front, as well.
“I can’t risk his health. It’s frustrating because he relies on me for a lot of things and because of COVID-19, he stays at home, he’s sheltering in place. So now, I’m having to scramble to get friends and family to help him out at the same time,” Karbassi said.
Karbassi said he wants to wait a few days before getting tested himself.
“You can’t rely solely on masks,” Karbassi said, advocating for social distancing practices. “If you are feeling sick, stay home. You can’t rely on just one measure.”
Self-Screening Procedures in Place
City Manager Wilma Quan set forth an emergency order outlining the social distancing plan for council chambers that went into effect at 8 a.m., an hour before last Thursday’s council meeting.
“All personnel will be required to self-screen before entering the workplace and all members of the public will be screened on entry,” Quan’s order said.
The screening included non-contact temperature checks for the public.
“If the public member answers ‘no’ to all questions and does not have an elevated temperature, and is wearing a facial covering, the member will be then processed by security screening,” the order said.
When this reporter attended the meeting last week, the only check made was for a mask.
If Positive, Arias Must Self-Isolate
The city’s order mandates that if Arias himself contracts COVID-19, he must isolate for 14 days, which he said he is already doing.
“If a Councilmember is tested and confirmed as having COVID-19 within three days following a Council meeting in Council Chambers and was present during the meeting, their time on the dais will be assessed through video recording to determine who was within six feet of them for more than 15 minutes,” the order said.
The order also calls for those sitting next to a member with a positive case to isolate for two weeks as well.
As council president, Arias sat in the center, with councilwoman Esmeralda Soria to his right and Karbassi to his left. Of the three, only Soria wore a mask throughout the meeting.
The chamber underwent full disinfection over the weekend.
The next city council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 16.