On the same page with virus policies

The leaders of various Garvin County offices came together this week to get on the same page when it comes to the best policies for dealing with a virus pandemic that doesn't appear to be going anywhere but up.

During a regular weekly meeting Monday all three county commissioners met with officers for most county offices inside the Garvin County Courthouse.

The discussion centered on the best ways to deal with COVID-19 in the individual offices and courthouse as a whole as the virus numbers continue to be trending upward for now.

Dave Johnson, emergency management director for Garvin County, told the group there are a lot of cities and counties all over the U.S. that are mandating masks for their employees when at work.

He also wanted commissioners to understand not all virus related terms are created equal.

“When we get sick and we're sent home this is called isolation. Quarantined is when you've been exposed but you're not sure if you're sick,” Johnson said. “Being in isolation and quarantining are not the same thing.

“I'm not pro-mask mandate. I just want you to understand the consequences of not being able to socially distance.

“If you're wearing a mask you're not going to be quarantined. We need to take care of each other. We need to be wearing masks if we can't socially distance.”

Sheriff Jim Mullett, who along with some of his staff have recovered after a past stint with COVID-19, said the sheriff's office he oversees has been “fortunate to not have a single case of the virus” since the summer.

“Every arrest that comes in is automatically screened at the door. I feel like our office is already set up to socially distance except in the jail,” Mullett said, adding there were 80 inmates housed in jail on Monday

Treasurer Sandy Goggans says keeping a safe distance could be a challenge for her office as annual property tax statements will soon be going out.

That means more people will likely be coming to the courthouse over the next few weeks to pay their tax bills in person.

There were also discussions with Assessor Tammy Murrah and Court Clerk Laura Lee about the best practices for their employees in their courthouse offices they oversee.

“If everyone cooperates we'll be fine. This is a public health crisis and it's not going away,” said Carol Dillingham, assistant district attorney serving as advisor to the commissioners.

“There may be a time when you have to order them to wear a mask or send them home without pay. You have the authority to do that,” she said, referring to county officer and the employees working for them in the courthouse.

District 3 Commissioner Mike Gollihare says all county officers need to pay close attention to the virus threat as the combination of employees being isolated or quarantined can put a major dent in the staff for each department at any one time.

“We're not going to get rid of this,” he said. “You're not going to control this. You see people in groups and no mask. You see people in restaurants and no one has a mask.”

District 2 Commissioner Gary Ayres and his fellow commissioners, Gollihare and Kenneth Holden, agreed each elected official should determine the best virus related policies for their offices in the courthouse.

“For now we'll leave it up to all county officers to do what they decide to do for their office,” Ayres said.

Although the hope for many is a COVID-19 vaccine, Johnson said there are some who have their reservations. He is quick to add there's no need for people to be afraid of a vaccine when it's available to the public.

“There are people on the front lines that have already had the vaccine,” Johnson said.

“By the time it gets to the public we'll know a whole lot more about the vaccine, and it'll be at no cost to the public.”

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