LARNED — Pawnee County Commissioners Bob Rein Jr., Phillip Hammeke and Deborah Lewis met in a special meeting Thursday morning to discuss public health. Since Monday, Rein has met with county department heads to assess their concerns and special circumstances in order to help craft the county’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak in Kansas in accordance with Governor Laura Kelly’s state mandates announced on Tuesday. A resolution was expected by the end of the day that would alter regular county operations. Public access to the courthouse was expected to cease on Thursday for the foreseeable future, except for a few limited exceptions.
Staff will be expected to show up for work as usual for now, provided they or their family members are not experiencing symptoms of Covid-19, or have not been exposed to a person known to be infected. They will conduct business with the public either over the phone or electronically for the most part. For business that cannot be conducted in this manner, steps will be taken to ensure members of the public are safe for courthouse employees to be around before they are escorted into the building, conduct their business, and are escorted out of the building.
Commissioners, in cooperation with department heads, created a brief questionnaire which includes three questions to gauge a person’s status for safety purposes:
- Have you traveled? If yes where? (As of 3/18/20 any international travel, any travel to California, Washington state, Florida or New York, any cruise ship travel, any travel to Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties in Colorado are mandated to quarantine for 14 days.)
- Are you running a fever over 100 degrees F?
- Are you or an immediate family member showing signs of lower respiratory illness such as cough or shortness of breath?
A “yes” response to any of the questions will result in employees being asked to stay home and members of the public denied access to face-to-face meetings.
The public will be asked to go to the south door of the courthouse, located at ground level, for entry to the building. For the time being, the Pawnee County Commission will continue to hold an open meeting on Monday morning, but will conduct business in the ground level lounge area. This will continue until such time the commissioners determine even that level of access is not appropriate.
“It’s not a matter of if, but when we begin to see staff infected with the virus,” Rein said.
Other concerns that were discussed had to do with how mail is distributed in the courthouse, and how court cases would proceed in the weeks ahead.
Rein said the Commission was waiting on guidance concerning the courts.
Everything that is not federally mandated or doesn’t create a public safety issue is being pushed off dockets for a later date. Things that fall within the guidelines include child care, protection from abuse, and various treatment issues.
“The first week or so, things will be easy, but at week three, people are bound to be getting bored or anxious,” Pawnee County Attorney Doug McNett said. “At week three people are going to start to get anxious, and I anticipate things starting to slide onto the dockets.”
Much business in the meantime will be conducted by telephone conferences.
County employees on precautionary medical leave won’t lose vacation or sick time
Copies of Resolution 2020-R-003 were distributed to county employees at the meeting. It amended part of the personnel policy manual for county workers, specifically addressing medical quarantine. It states that any county employee placed in a medical quarantine shall be designated as being on precautionary medical administrative leave for the duration of the quarantine. The policy provides employees 10 days of leave with a doctor’s notification of medical condition. Employees on PMAL shall receive full pay and benefits, subject to KPERS rules and regulations and won’t be required to use accumulated vacation or sick leave during the period.