(Update: Flint Mayor Sheldon has set a limit of 30 people or less at City Hall meetings and cancelling “nonessential” meetings. He is encouraging residents to watch meetings online.)

Flint, MI — All nonessential public meetings at Flint City Hall have been cancelled until further notice due to leaders enacting measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus also known as COVID-19.

“We have been doing some internal work making sure our complex and city government does not shut down in the (event) that we have a full outbreak in this community,” said Flint Mayor Sheldon Neely during a March 12, 2020 press conference at city hall. “So, what we’ve been doing is reworking our policies and making sure that city hall will not shut down and making sure we protect residents that come to city hall to do business and also or workers as they do (their) jobs inside of city hall.”

Neeley has declared citywide community health alert and said his staff is seeking guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and that the rule is in place until further notice for  any gathering at city hall for 30 or more people. He also said that residents should use online services when paying bills and that the city will change the process of taking payments. In- person payments should be left in the city’s drop box.

“We do not want to issue any particular signs of panic,” he said. “We want to be prepared…if we have a full outbreak in this community.. Make sure we do everything possible to protect ourselves.”

Neeley’s announcements for safeguards in Flint comes two days after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer confirmed that there were at least two cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, one in Wayne County and another in Oakland County. She declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020.

“I urge all Michiganders to take these recommendations seriously and to share them with their friends, families, and coworkers,” said Whitmer in a March 11, 2020 press release.. “It’s on all of us to be safe and be smart for ourselves, our loved ones, our coworkers, and the public at large. We are encouraging schools, universities, businesses, and other organizations to use their best judgment about what steps are most appropriate to keep people safe and slow the spread of the disease.”

Since the state of emergency was declared Michigan colleges and universities have shifted to online classes and a host of organizations have canceled community events throughout the state including Flint’s 2020 Census town hall which was moved online instead.

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Flint Beat‘s founder and publisher, Jiquanda Johnson is a Flint-area native with more than 16 years of experience in journalism including print, television and digital media. She has worked for The...