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03/16/2020

Quorum Court Takes Proactive Measures

 

Mississippi County Judge John Alan Nelson and members of the Quorum Court met on Friday to take proactive action to safeguard the county employees as well as the community against the potential hazards of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The board was expected to meet again at 12:30 p.m., Monday, for more discussion.

On Friday, Judge Nelson thanked everyone for coming on short notice to discuss. He brought the departments together to discuss any changes and share all precautions being implemented throughout the departments to fight the COVID-19 threat.

Jennifer Adcock with Great River Medical Center, infectious disease control, spoke first updating the court members of what the medical center has put into place to protect their staff and the community.

She talked about how the virus is spread, saying the hospital has all the PPE needed and is taking all the precautions possible.

Wayne Reynolds with the office of Emergency Services also spoke and emphasized washing hands, sanitizing surfaces, keeping doorknobs, etc., clean. Also, it was suggested to keep a six-foot distance because that is how far the droplets will travel."

County Sheriff Dale Cook said a no visitation policy for the jail has been implemented. He said arrangements can be made for attorneys who need to meet with clients. He also talked about the precautions being taken. The nursing staff has a protocol they are following. Sheriff Cook said any arrests suspected of having the virus would be taken to the hospital for a clean bill of health before taken to the facility. He talked about the steps of cleaning equipment, etc.

Mayor James Sanders spoke about creating one command center to serve the entire community with information. Information from the State Health Department can be shared with all of the departments from one location.

Judge Ralph Wilson spoke briefly saying the judges are monitoring the issue and at this time they are not closing any of the courts.

"It is all about what to do, if," Dr. Anes Abraham said.

She said the Coronavirus is in the U.S. and they need to do what they can to protect the most vulnerable population They need to be in the planning stage now and be prepared.

Amanda Adams, director of the senior citizen centers, said the Craighead County and Greene County senior citizens have closed. She said they are looking at their home delivery meals to do a five-meal pack delivery on Monday to lesson possible exposure. She said the meals are the same as what were used during the ice storm. She said the center will close on March 23 for two weeks and re-evaluate on April 6. She said if they can't reopen they are looking at preparing pack-and-go meals and seniors can drive to the senior and workers can hand them their meals and they will not have to get out of their vehicle.

Also offering updates on steps being taken were Kenneth Love with Pafford Ambulance Service. He said they are prepared. They will take steps to protect the first responders and officers.

Fire Chief Mike Carney said the fire department has procedures in place.

Judge Nelson and county department heads suggested most business at the courthouse can be done by phone or online. Judge Nelson suggested before making the trip to call the assessor's office at (870) 763-6860.

Judge Nelson and the justices discussed an Emergency Ordinance addressing leave policies in times of a public health emergency declared by the Governor of the State of Arkansas.

They all agreed, they want their employees to be able to stay home if they have been exposed to COVID-19 without worrying about their leave time. The ordinance assured employees who are placed on a quarantine period of 14 days or less, either by their physician or by their elected official, shall be paid for the quarantine period, up to 14 days. This paid time will not be taken out of any leave bank. Employees diagnosed with COVID-19 shall not return to work for up to 14 days from the initial diagnosis. A medical release will be required from the physician for the employee to return to work.

It also approves employees with school-aged children who are mandatory quarantine or school closing may choose to stay home with their child. Employees who choose to stay home will be required to use any accrued paid time including sick leave, vacation leave, comp time and personal time.

Judge Nelson said he wants to turn this over to the emergency committee and they can keep them updated.

Judge Nelson again thanked everyone for their attendance. He said he would be working with other cities in the county.