All will offer public services online and by phone

With the omicron variant raging everywhere, several East Bay cities are closing their government offices to the public to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The cities of Martinez, Brentwood, San Pablo, Pleasant Hill, Newark and Clayton have all shut their doors, leaving minimal staffing for at least the next week. Hayward is closing up on Fridays through the end of this month.

All of those cities are still offering services online while closed, making staff available through phone and email. Residents can request in-person appointments, which some cities said they will consider approving, but walk-ins are out for now.

In Clayton, where the City Council may soon approve “hero pay” bonuses of $10,000 for almost all city employees, Laura Hoffmeister, assistant to the city manager, said everyone will still come to work but not engage with the public in person.

“After two years, I’m kind of rolling with it,” said Hoffmeister, who also is the vice mayor of neighboring Concord, which is staying open. “We’ve seen these surges before and then things go back down.”

Hoffmeister said Clayton’s city offices are well-equipped for healthy practices and the vaccination rate among employees is very high.

Still, the virus has been creeping into workplaces as cases skyrocket nationwide. After identifying multiple COVID-19 cases in every city facility in Brentwood, City Manager Tim Ogden issued an emergency order to close all of them to the public. The city employs more than 350 people.

“I’m concerned about staff capacity in a few critical services where we may not have anyone qualified to fill in,” Ogden said in an email, adding that he couldn’t say what those services are because it could compromise the confidentiality of employees who have tested positive.

At least a couple cities that closed offices this week have required employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including Clayton and Pleasant Hill. But most are maintaining at least some level of staffing in their offices.

In Hayward’s case, spokesman Chuck Finne said the city needed to stay open four days a week to continue offering full services to the public.

Finne said although some employees have gotten COVID-19, the city is “maintaining skeletal levels of staffing physically present in City Hall.”

Some public school districts in the Bay Area are closing some schools and going remote because so many teachers and students have caught the virus. West Contra Costa Unified announced this week it would close all 54 of its campuses through Monday, and Milpitas Unified said Friday it would do the same through mid-January.

Walnut Creek and Concord, two of the largest cities in Contra Costa County, do not currently plan to close offices, but spokespeople for both governments said officials are monitoring the omicron’s rise.



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