MIAMI COUNTY — The Board of Miami County Commissioners held a roundtable with elected officials on Thursday, with some attending in-person and others listening in remotely.
While there is still no decision made yet as to when the commissioners will reopen county buildings to the public, the commissioners and elected officials discussed how to protect their employees in the county buildings, particularly in terms of access to personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfection, and social distancing.
Miami County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Scott Altenburger said his court has given continuances to most of the non-emergency cases, but with the need to begin holding more cases again, he brought up concerns about face masks and putting up glass barriers at the clerk’s office. He also removed some of the chairs in the hallway and is having people who do come in during this time stand 6 feet apart.
“Are the commissioners going to require everyone to wear face masks?” Altenburger asked.
Commissioner Jack Evans was unsure if they would have the authority to require the public to wear face masks if they will be going into county government buildings. Miami County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeannie Pratt suggested the county could offer face masks to the public, but the question of supply was another issue.
“Everybody in the state … is trying to get them,” Miami County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Joel Smith said.
Evans also questioned if the county provided face masks to their employees, would the county then be required to offer face masks to the public.
Smith said, for county employees who qualify as essential employees, face masks could be considered part of their necessary equipment in order to complete their duties.
Miami County Health Commissioner Dennis Propes also added the county will have the same responsibility as businesses in protecting its employees, so the county will need to follow any guidelines the state gives to employers. He added later that they do not know what future restrictions for employers will be yet as the state begins to reopen following the Stay at Home order, but he said the county will have to make its best effort to meet state standards.
Evans also asked if the county would be liable if they provided face masks to employees and an employee still got infected with COVID-19. Propes said it would be difficult to prove where the employee caught the virus.
Smith recommended the elected officials find out about how many employees they would have working and the number of clients they would be interacting with on a day-by-day basis. Smith said he would work on finding face masks to fulfill those quantities.
Operations and Facilities Director Chris Johnson went over cleaning protocols, discussing the different options his department is looking into for disinfectant products as there are no disinfectant wipes available. Johnson suggested employees clean their work spaces when they arrive and then again when they leave. He said that, with his staff, his department is able to clean the high traffic areas at county buildings two to three times a day.
“That takes up my resources in-house,” Johnson said. The disinfectant foggers are also a limited resource.
Pratt also voiced her concerns about the jury rooms and disinfecting those spaces as some are small and contain chairs with cloth seating. She said she is not anticipating a jury trial until June or July.
Evans ended the meeting by reminding the elected officials to be vigilant regarding their budgets and spending, saying the county is anticipating a 20-25 percent drop in the sales tax.