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Floyd County supervisors approve infectious disease action plan

By Bob Steenson,

Floyd County supervisors approved an Infectious Disease Action Plan this week, outlining service and employee priorities and policies for COVID-19 and any other infectious disease situation that might disrupt activities.

The document was developed with the help of Ahlers & Cooney, a Des Moines law practice that specializes in government and labor law, and is based in part on a similar plan developed by West Des Moines, said Gloria Carr, the Floyd County auditor who put the plan together.

The plan identifies four priorities for county services, then goes into detail about employee duties, work requirements and options in an infectious disease situation.

The priorities are:

• Priority 1, public safety and security — Activities that must remain uninterrupted and usually run 24 hours a day, such as law enforcement, jail, emergency operating centers/emergency management and designated public health staff.

• Priority 2, essential and core services — Activities that can be disrupted temporarily but must be re-established to avoid economic chaos, such as processing payroll, payment to vendors and benefit payments to individuals.

• Priority 3, necessary services — Activities required by law or rule, but that can be suspended by executive order or emergency declaration, and must be re-established sometime before the pandemic wave is over, such as license renewals.

• Priority 4, inconvenient but recoverable — Services that can be suspended during an emergency and are not required by law or rule, such as educational programs, training and general maintenance.

Under the plan, Priority 1 employees are required to remain working full time. Priority 2 employees are required to work onsite, although some of them may be allowed to work from home.

The supervisors have directed the individual county offices to also rank the services they provide on the priority list.

“I see Priority 1, if the world closes down, what do we still have to have out there?” said Supervisor Chairman Roy Schwickerath. “It’s law enforcement, it’s emergency operations, public health.”

Carr said Priority 1 front-line officers aren’t necessarily covered by expanded leave options under the new federal guidelines to deal with the coronavirus.

For example, she said, “If you have someone on the front line who has child care and their child care place closed, they need to have an alternate plan for child care and they wouldn’t be eligible for the 10 weeks for the Expanded Family Leave Act, … because they’re that front line and you need them.”

“For some it’s tougher to be a priority 1 because of that,” said Supervisor Linda Tjaden.

Part of the action plan deals with the use and availability of resources under an infectious disease emergency.

“Availability of technology resources such as computers, laptops, scanners, printers, internet AirCards, etc., should be prioritized in the same fashion as the need for Priority 1, 2, 3, and 4 services,” the policy says.

“As soon as possible, departments should identify possible telecommuters qualified to work remotely, make necessary technology arrangements, set clear functions and goals to accomplish while working at home, and re-evaluate the need to work remotely periodically,” it says.

“The resource part is critical,” Carr said.

The action plan covers policies for county employees regarding modifying work schedules, hours worked, the county sick leave policy, and using the the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the expanded federal Family Medical Leave Act.

It also includes guidelines in illness reporting, including requiring visitors to county facilities to first fill out a self-screening health checklist, as was approved by the board last week.

“Do not enter a Floyd County facility if designated checklist criteria applies to your situation. Criteria as of March 30 includes:

• “You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and/or tested positive for COVID-19.

• “You have been around someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or tested positive for COVID-19. This includes living in the same household or spending time within six feet of someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or tested positive for COVID-19.

• “You are experiencing any of the following flu-like/respiratory symptoms: Fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher in the last 72 hours; … sore throat in the last 7 days; cough in the last 7 days; new shortness of breath or difficulty breathing in the last 7 days.

“In addition, employees who are experiencing uncommon symptoms of COVID-19, including sneezing, diarrhea, nausea and fatigue, should consider staying home,” the guidelines say.

The board approved the action plan, but agreed that it can be modified.

“I like that you said it right up front of the document — it is rapidly evolving,” said Tjaden. “We continue to reassess this as needed. We reserve the right to amend or revise it at any time if things change.”

Also at the meeting this week, the supervisors:

• Reviewed the annual county budget report, presented by Elizabeth Thyer, a partner and certified public accountant with Gardiner+Company in Charles City.

“We have issued an unmodified opinion on the financial statement, which is what you want to hear,” Thyer said. “It means we’ve issued a clean opinion, that we believe the financial statements are fairly presented.”

• Set 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, April 28, for a public hearing on an amendment to the county’s 2019-20 fiscal year budget.

Major changes include accounting for $2.7 million in additional revenue because of the way the second half of the general obligation bonds were issued for the law enforcement project, bridge replacement funding and conservation grants.

Expenditures increased by $131,316 over the original budget for various county departments, including county attorney’s office wages and benefits, sheriff’s department overtime and housing inmates, and conservation reserve projects.