COVID-19 outbreak forces changes in county operations by commissioners

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COVID-19 outbreak forces changes in county operations by commissioners

Sat, 03/28/2020 - 03:53
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The COVID-19 pandemic had the attention of Canadian County commissioners during an emergency meeting on Wednesday.

“It’s a moving target every day,” said Jack Stewart, District 3. Stewart was describing the rapid changes the COVID-19 virus has caused for everyone, including businesses and government.

The meeting was attended by representatives from every county office and people made sure to keep a distance of about 6 feet between each other.

County Treasurer Carolyn Leck joined the discussion by phone, as did Assistant District Attorney Tommy Humphries.

The decision was reached to indefinitely close all the court buildings starting Thursday, March 26. Every officer voted to close the offices to the public. Drop boxes will be made available outside the buildings so citizens can make any needed payments. People will get their receipts through mail or email.

The offices are only closed to the public, though appointments will sometimes be allowed. Inside, court employees will continue to work. Following the governor’s directive, each office of the court has the option to send employees home to work remotely.

These include anyone who is in a high risk group for serious coronavirus complications. Healthy people forced to stay home will be on duty and not on administrative leave.

“We’ve established that county government is essential,” said Commissioner David Anderson. “We’re going to keep working to the best of our ability.”

“It’s essential that we keep county government open,” said Assessor Matt Wehmuller. “Everyone keeps working, everyone keeps getting paid.”

Elected officials and department heads were given the authority to take whatever steps deemed necessary to protect their employees. According to Stewart, each employee will likely alternate between two weeks in the building and two weeks at home.

Each office will also make its own decisions on how to handle mail.

Several at the meeting stressed the importance of following procedures to minimize the risk of the virus.

Over the phone, Leck said those in her office are constantly wearing gloves. She also recommended wearing gloves at the gas pump and gargling warm lemon water after being near people.

Leck agreed with the commissioners that keeping the elderly from exposure was of vital importance.

From elsewhere in the crowd came advice for older people to keep from baby-sitting their grandkids.

COVID-19 was treated as a very dangerous public health risk by everyone who spoke.

“When it starts hitting home, if people you know get it, it becomes more serious,” said Wehmuller.

District 1 Commissioner Marc Hader said the teamwork within county government has already done a lot toward preventing spread of the disease.

“I think we’ve minimized our risk to a large degree,” he said.

As for what the future may hold, Anderson offered a sobering suggestion.

“This type of meeting with lots of people in the room should be avoided in the future.”