TUPELO • Three municipal department heads are quarantined with COVID-19, including Don Lewis, who is both City Hall’s top appointed figure and a mayoral hopeful.
Lewis, Tupelo’s chief operations officer, confirmed on Thursday that he, Tupelo Water & Light Director Johnny Timmons and Parks and Recreation Director Alex Farned have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and are isolating in accordance with medical recommendations.
This comes even as Mayor Jason Shelton remains at home following the birth of his first child, and city attorney Ben Logan is on leave over the coming weeks unrelated to COVID-19.
According to Lewis, he and the other impacted department heads continue to work from home and are experiencing only mild or no symptoms.
“Nobody is incapacitated right now,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he believes transmission among the department heads occurred through social contact between the impacted individuals and their families, not in a workplace setting. He does not currently believe that transmission is actively occurring among city employees.
“It seems to be limited to just us and our families,” Lewis said. “We do go out to a restaurant every now and then.”
A 47-year old city employee died from COVID-19 in July. At the same, all City Hall employees were tested for the virus but no one else was found to be positive.
Despite the quarantines and other issues affecting top municipal leaders, Lewis believes the city remains in a position to effectively manage any adverse weather that may pass over the region Friday.
Per usual procedure, Fire Department Chief Thomas Walker will assume incident command if the city enters a state of emergency, and Walker is not under any quarantine Lewis said.
The chief operations officer said he also will remain actively involved from afar.
“I am still working from home and will be in communication with everybody,” Lewis said.
The City Council is scheduled to hold an agenda review next Monday. Current plans call for Lewis and Shelton to participate in the agenda review by phone, while Chief Finance Officer Kim Hanna leads the administrative briefing for the council as the top mayoral appointee present in the room.
During the absence of the city attorney, municipal prosecutor Richard Babb will be on hand to advice the City Council on legal matters, Lewis said.
City Council President Mike Bryan said he also at this time remains in especially close contact with the mayor’s administration, including with Shelton himself.
“He is a phone call away. We are interacting between one another,” Bryan said. “I am confident the city will continue to move forward.”
According to Bryan, who represents Ward 6, the council will monitor the situation for any problems that may arise.
“I am in direct contact with fellow council members to make sure we are not blindsided by anything,” the Ward 6 councilman said.