Courthouse to continue COVID-19 screenings

Board of Supervisors
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Despite a cost of about $1,000 a week, Jones County will continue to have COVID-19 health screenings at the west entrance of the courthouse.

     During the Jones County Supervisor meeting on Sept. 22, County Auditor Janine Sulzner informed the board that the federal CARES Act would no longer cover the cost for such public health measures.

     County Treasurer Amy Picray, whose office sees a lot of people on a weekly basis, especially as they increase their customer services, was against backing off on health screenings. She cited the increase in COVID-19 cases as reported by Public Health as her basis.

     Sheriff Greg Graver agreed, despite the fact that his staff has the least amount of public contact within the courthouse.

     It is the Sheriff’s Office employees who staff the west entrance on a daily basis. Graver said he asked those employees if they felt it was burdensome providing health screenings; the answer was no.

     “It’s all routine for them,” Graver said. “They’re happy to continue providing the service.”

     Graver said at one point his department chose to loosen COVID restrictions and a deputy tested positive for the virus.

     “So we put those measures back in place,” he said.

     Graver also contact Jones Regional Medical Center for their input. The hospital has no plans to change their public health measures unless they see a major decrease in cases countywide, or unless vaccine becomes available.

     A courthouse in an adjacent county did not have public health measures in place. Graver shared that the courthouse had to shut down for a period of time because two employees in that treasurer’s office tested positive.

     “The less measures you have in place to protect people, and with some people with bad attitudes, the potential for exposure,” warned Graver.

     Within the Jones County Jail, though, jail staff performs separate screenings on all inmates.

     And when court services start back up again soon, Graver said the courthouse would see more people coming in and out. He anticipates separate health screenings for those entering the courtroom, too.

     Graver offered money in his budget to help the county offset the cost for the screenings. Sulzner said she is also looking at grants to help with the cost as well.

     Emergency Management Coordinate Brenda Leonard felt the same, that the screenings should continue for the time being.

     “With an increase in cases, now is not the time to stop,” she said.

     “The board of health also has no desire to lessen their protocols,” added Supervisor Wayne Manternach.

     Supervisor Ned Rohwedder said the screenings are more pertinent now than earlier in the pandemic.

     “I’d like to see the active cases go down,” he said before the county eliminates the screenings.

     Sulzner did warn the board of supervisors that, beginning Oct. 5 for early voting, voters entering the courthouse through the west entrance would not be screened. They will be voting in the Community Room, and also existing through the west door.

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