Health and Safety Reviews Pre-Holiday COVID Conditions

The Health and Safety Commission convened remotely on Nov. 22 to review the city’s response to COVID-19, highlight exemplary employees, and hear updates from the Beverly Hills Fire Department. 

As a part of the Health and Safety Employee Excellence Award, the commission honored the work of Public Works Facilities Maintenance Supervisors Juan Morales and Elmer Andujar Colon and their team.

“I want to commend you for the many things that you do normally, including routine maintenance, cleaning and repair of our facilities,” said Chairperson Cathy Baker.

Baker also listed the many ways in which Morales and Colon have assisted in hardening the city against COVID-19, including: installing handsfree thermometers and COVID self-monitoring stations in city facilities; changing manual faucets to automatic, hands-free faucets in city bathrooms and kitchens; upgrading the city’s HVAC systems and installing MERV-13 filters; nightly flushing of facilities with fresh air; and coordinating deep cleaning and disinfection of city facilities.

“I hope this gives all people confidence in their safety when entering our facility buildings,” Baker said.

Beverly Hills Fire Department Battalion Leader Scott Stephens addressed the commission with an update on Fire Department activity in the city. Of a total of 442 incidents in the month of November, 279 were for emergency medical services. The average response time for all Fire Department calls was under four minutes and 51 seconds.

The Fire Department responded to two large calls, Stephens said. On Oct. 29, a professional document shredding truck burst into flames in the parking lot of the Chase Bank building. The abundance of shredded paper provided a “receptive fuel bed,” Stephens said, attributing the fire to overheating machinery. The fire was extinguished “rather quickly” and no injuries were reported.

Then, on Nov. 8, the department responded to a hazardous materials incident at a medical office located on San Vicente Boulevard. The office, which conducts medical research, experienced an argon gas leak on the third floor. The office was evacuated and by the time Los Angeles Fire Department crews arrived with specialized testing equipment, “all of the argon had dissipated.”

“The cause of the leak was likely a loose connection at one of their tanks,” Stephens said.

The commission heard an update of COVID-19 from Emergency Manager Meena Janmohamed. While COVID-19 continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States, Janmohamed pointed to continuing data on the efficacy of vaccines. According to current case data in Los Angeles County, only slightly more than 1% of fully vaccinated people have tested positive for COVID-19 since vaccines became available. Janmohamed also pointed to data showing that nearly 78% of Beverly Hills residents 12 or older have been fully vaccinated.

“When comparing that to the L.A. County average, Beverly Hills is 5% more vaccinated, and compared to the United States, Beverly Hills is 9% higher than the national rate of vaccination,” she said. 

The commission ended with the announcement from Deputy Chief Joe Matsch, who also serves as the Fire Department liaison for the Health and Safety Commission, that he plans on retiring on Dec. 21. His final service will be the commission meeting on Dec. 20. Matsch retires from a 34-year career in the fire service, 27 of which he spent in Beverly Hills. 

“This place has been absolutely amazing to me,” Matsch said. “I leave with a lot of respect, admiration, and, again, love for this commission, for this community, for this fire department.”

Matsch told the commission that he plans on pursuing other options in retirement. 

“I look forward to my last month working for the commission and I certainly look forward to our December 20 meeting and I think there’s nothing more befitting me leaving as soon as we adjourn this meeting and I will be officially retired,” he said. “That’s my last call of action and it’ll be an honor to finalize my career with you.” 

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