Mayor Chuck Espy in downtown Clarksdale.
Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy

CLARKSDALE — City employees across all departments are seeing upticks in COVID-19 cases, leaving a shortage of employees to keep the town clean, according to Mayor Chuck Espy.

As a result, he took to social media Thursday to ask citizens to “do their part” by ceasing to litter, picking up trash and tidying up their neighborhoods for a minimum of 15 minutes a day.

“A lot of my team members are getting hit with the virus. I’m asking you to continue to wear your mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands,” Espy said on a Facebook live. “My request is I need your help and here’s how … Can you please get out and help cleanup in your neighborhood?”

In a phone call with Mississippi Today, Espy said he could not release the number of employees who tested positive for the virus. He did say there are currently 39 employees with COVID-19 related issues. This number accounts for individuals who may have tested positive or are awaiting test results, for instance. The city has approximately 138 employees. However, he did say, the city is becoming a “red zone,” and a “panic situation.” As of August 12, Coahoma County had a total of 798 confirmed cases and 13 deaths, according to data by the Mississippi State Department of Health.

This past week the state health department reported the lowest daily case totals of COVID-19 in about a month, but the state’s test positivity rate remains one of the highest in the nation, Mississippi Today reported

Last week, the state department of health issued an isolation order for individuals diagnosed with COVID-19. This order states those infected must isolate at home and remain at home for 14 days. Employers may approve the individual’s return to work 10 days after the day they experienced symptoms or were tested. If a person refuses to abide by the law, they may be forced to pay a fine of $500 or jail time for six months.

Aside from the state regulations and guidelines outlined, Clarksdale has not implemented any additional measures for city employees. 

Though city workers are “stretched to the max,” Espy said the city is still able to conduct its daily functions and operations, other than providing upkeep for the city. Additionally, they are working to hire private contractors to do grass cleanup and demolish 75 abandoned homes.

“At least once a week, I go out in the community … clean up right there in my own neighborhood and it takes about 15 minutes and we are needing  that type of help,” Espy added. “Clean it up, bag it up, and throw it in your trash can.”

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Aallyah Wright is a native of Clarksdale, and was a Mississippi Delta reporter covering education and local government. She was also a weekly news co-host on WROX Radio (97.5 FM) and collaborator with StoryWorks/Reveal Labs from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Aallyah has a bachelor’s in journalism with minors in communications and theater from Delta State University. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report, and co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.