As North Texas began to hunker down with the rest of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere went on a voluntary 14-day quarantine.
“I wouldn’t ask my citizens to do this if I wasn’t willing to do it myself,” LaRosiliere said in a prepared statement. “We will overcome this crisis together.”
Two weeks into his voluntary quarantine, Plano has been under multiple regional directives aimed at taking precautions against spreading the virus. So we sat down with LaRosiliere for a Skype interview on Monday to discuss Plano’s role in the ever-changing COVID-19 situation and what he’s been doing to pass the time in quarantine.
Q: I know you are on a voluntary quarantine, what day are you on?
Mayor LaRosilliere: Today’s day 13.
Q: How has it been so far?
MLR: You know, it has its moments, but for the most part, it helped me organize my time, and I’ll go out and take a run in the neighborhood or something like that as my only outside activity, but I don’t interact with anyone. So it’s definitely different, and as I come off of the quarantine, I think my next level is just staying home, and so it’s not really significantly different other than going out for an essential purpose or need.
Q: So how are you passing the time?
MLR: Well, I’m plenty busy with my mayor duties. Working through all the different things coming at us. A crisis like this, a pandemic, creates so many disruptions at all levels. You can’t fully prepare for everything that will you will encounter. You simply have to deal with issues as they come along in real time. So that’s pretty busy, and I also have a… I work as a wealth advisor, so it’s been a very tumultuous time in the stock market, so working with my clients. I stay plenty busy for sure.
Q: I know there’s no “normal” right now, but if you could describe a normal day for you over the past couple weeks, what would it be like?
MLR: So the last three weeks or so, my basic day… Well, two and a half weeks, my basic day is [to] get up, I’ll typically go work out either in the house or take a run in the neighborhood and then come back in, and my day is filled with calls and Skype meetings pretty much back to back. I work at just keeping my spaces to themselves. So I work in the office and then at noon-ish or so, I’ll go and have lunch and I’ll go in the kitchen and eat it rather than come back to the office, and treat it in that manner. So create a bit of structure, but the typical day is calls back to back or teleconferences and then dealing with whatever new development’s occurring with the Covid-19 virus, so it requires a lot of back and forth phone calls and emails and texts and things like that.
Q: So, as mayor, what has been your biggest learning experience through this Covid-19 situation?
MLR: Well, I think it’s what I’ve learned over the last seven years as mayor is that the basic tenets of leadership are you have to listen, learn from your actions, lead by example and let go to empower your staff to execute the plan.
Q: What role would you say Plano is playing in this situation?
MLR: So, in the past couple days, it was very encouraging, we’ve had a lot of conversation among our fellow mayors in Collin County and with Mayor[s] Price and Johnson and Williams, in Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington. And so I think we are truly looking to bridge our whole region so that there’s a sense of cohesion and hopefully eliminate some confusion for all our residents.
Q: What have you been hearing from citizens lately?
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MLR: I think it’s very typical in a moment like this, there are some people who think you’re doing a wonderful job because they have access to the information or they know where to find it, and then there’s others that don’t and feel maybe there’s not enough being done. The reality is, though, everyone’s working as hard as they can. Some of our staff are reduced because there’s fewer people. We’re trying to maintain social distancing. And so we’re on a lean staff and we’re still asked to deliver the same amount of services, so it’s pretty difficult for our staff as well.
Q: What, in your opinion, should residents be focused on right now?
MLR: I think our residents should focus right now on the reasons why they should stay home. I think you think about the people you care for, the people who matter to you, because that’s who you’re doing that for. For yourself, number one, and number two for them so that you may not possibly infect them.
It was more than the government telling someone to stay at home, but you voluntarily choosing to stay home for the people you care about, and that’s what it’s really about. And keeping yourself healthy and maybe not…and keeping them healthy as well is the reason why you choose to stay home. And if there is a reason for you to go out for food and gas or some activity that is vital to your life, then you do so, but at all caution. We just saw the White House extended the social distancing policy through the end of April, so I think that tells you the severity of what we’re working against.
Q: I know you mentioned in your message to the city that went out through the Plano newsletter some confusion [regarding what different orders are telling communities to do]. So why is Plano joining that regional collaborative approach, and what exactly does that entail?
MLR: So it’s simply a stay at home order for businesses, declaring that you should stay home if you’re categorized as a non-essential business. And so there’s a list that defines it and kind of puts the parameters, and really all that’s trying to do, all we are all trying to do, is drive the behavior to be inclined to stay home. I don’t think there’s any major difference in terms of what different cities are doing. They’re essentially all the same order, but it’s really just trying to make sure that you stay home and not go out unless you absolutely have to.
Q: How are businesses both big and small being supported by Plano?
You know, we are in the middle of a crisis right now, and we’re supporting ourselves and delivering services, so I think when it’s all said and done we’ll assess the damage and we’ll see what’s our part in helping rebuild our community. But for now, we just need to kind of see this through.
Q: How is Plano working with healthcare providers right now?
MLR: So the main healthcare director is through the county. It’s through Judge Hill, the Collin County judge. It’s his department that leads all the medical efforts for our area.
Q: A few days ago, on Twitter, you commented on a report about tests that could detect Covid-19 in about five minutes. You said “The more we know, the better decisions we can make.” Could those tests possibly come to the Plano area?
MLR: Well, the appropriation of resources comes on the state level, and then from the state it comes down to counties, and so when you say it comes here and comes in the area, it’s a regional area, so it may not necessarily be in Plano, but available for Plano residents. But I think that’s a ways off. I don’t know where they are in their process.
Q: Who are you staying home for?
MLR: My wife, my two daughters, my 86-year-old mom in New York and my sister in Virginia.
For more information, visit plano.gov/3554/Coronavirus-COVID-19