While many are held up in their homes, working from dining room tables and emerging only for the quick grocery trip during the COVID-19 outbreak, there are frontline workers all around the City and Township, and not just the ones who are working hard in hospitals or supermarkets.
They are the civil service workers who keep transit options open, municipal operations running, and even mail coming to the door.
Kyle Simpson, manager of engineering operations for the City of Langley, said there is a lot for his team to do that may not be on the forefront of resident’s minds.
“Right now we are doing a lot of water main flushing… boulevard maintenance… picking up litter off the ground. We also do sign maintenance and work on traffic signs,” Simpson explained, adding that COVID-19 has no doubt affected their daily life.
“We have been following provincial guidelines – keeping the two meter distance, washing our hands and carrying out extra cleaning of touch points,” Simpson said.
“Work-wise, there actually haven’t been a whole lot of changes since we’re a smaller municipality,” he noted, pointing out Langley City’s parks and engineering operations team consists of 30 full-time staff members.
Simpson said one of the more usual, yet obvious, obstacles for his crew is that they can only allow one person in a vehicle at a time.
“We would often normally have three or four people in a vehicle, but you can’t maintain a safe distance inside the cab,” Simpson explained. “It’s been a bit of an adjustment, but we’ve leased a few more trucks and have allowed the use of employee’s own personal vehicles.”
The manager also said Langley residents can do their part to help the operations and parks team conduct their work in a safer manner by disposing of their masks and gloves properly.
“We’ve been finding a lot just left on the ground,” he noted, asking for them to be safely disposed inside a trash receptacle so no contact has to be made.
“Non-flushable items, such as cleaning wipes are ending up down the toilet, which could cause sewer pump problems or back ups,” Simpson added, advising people to read up on what can and cannot be flushed.
Roeland Zwaag, director of public works for the Township of Langley, echoed Simpson’s concerns and experiences.
The Township has increased cleaning activities such as pressure washing bus stops, street furniture, and garbage cans. Park rangers at park sites are reminding the public about facility closures and educating users on physical distancing.
The Township additionally adjusted some work programs amid COVID-19 and are not presently crack-sealing roads due to physical distancing limitations, instead focusing on more shoulder and pothole repairs.
Guylene Leroux is another type of civil service worker; she is a rural and suburban letter carrier for Canada Post who services a route in Willoughby and works out of the Langley depot.
“I feel safe,” Leroux assured, saying she wears gloves, a mask, and carries hand sanitizer.
While it’s not mandatory, she said Canada Post supplies those materials for carriers who want them.
“Customers are aware at mailboxes and are sure to keep their distance by going around if a letter carrier is there,” Leroux added. “The schedule has changed so different waves start at 7 and 9 a.m. and disinfecting is done in between,” Leroux explained.
She said carriers are also spaced out at their sorting stations so there is an empty space between employees.
Registered mail is to have no contact with anyone, meaning signatures on scanners are prohibited and everything is dropped off – except mail that requires someone over the age of 19 to accept it.
It can be hard to keep new protocols and social distancing in mind with such a busy job; Leroux said the amount of parcels having increased because of online demand.
“The volume feels like the high peak of Christmas,” she said, a time that sees 1.8 million items delivered daily across Canada.
Of course, just as healthcare workers have experienced, Leroux has also noticed support from the community.
“Customers have been leaving positive notes by my community mailbox. Someone drew a chalk drawing with the caption ‘thank you so much letter carrier,’ which brought a tear to my eye,” Leroux recounted. “Some people just give me the thumbs up or tell me ‘thank you for keeping us connected’.”
Despite the onslaught of growing changes and dangers that have resulted in deaths around the world, taking pride in work– as Lerox, Zwaag, and Simpson do – is keeping communities together.
Leroux added “I’m thankful to be working and everyone I work with is always ready to go above and beyond what we do.”
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