County officials support changes in sick leave, budget to combat coronavirus
Grand County is taking steps to address the potential impacts of the novel coronavirus and minimize spread of the disease.
The Board of County Commissioners and county employees on Tuesday discussed potential changes to county policies, including sick leave, updating the budget to reflect the cost of the virus and implementing guidance for employees and the public.
There haven’t been any confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the county yet, but with 33 in the state, the county has implemented guidelines for employees that reiterate prevention methods, such as staying home while sick, washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, and limiting contact and meetings.
“If you have somebody coming up to your desk and they’re coughing and obviously sick, then I would say (give them) a surgical mask, use Purell … and then I would clean that surface as soon as you can after they leave,” said Brene Belew-LaDue, director of Grand County Public Health. “It’s pretty easy to clean up after this virus.”
Commissioners also were agreeable to temporarily loosening the county’s sick leave policy to cover new employees who haven’t accrued sick time, employees who are out of sick days and employees who take sick time to care for family members.
While no policy changes have yet been made, the commissioners expect to mull over either an amendment to the sick leave policy or a policy for periods of pandemic conditions on March 17.
“We’re not making policies today, but we are giving our team the flexibility to do what they need to adapt our existing policies as they need to,” County Manager Kate McIntire said.
McIntire also directed each county department to try to estimate their needs for the pandemic, whether that be supplies, overtime or other financial costs, so the county can begin planning for how the coronavirus might impact the 2020 budget.
The commissioners told employees they support dedicating the necessary funding to combat the virus.
“We want to open the spigot here and make sure that resources are there to purchase right away,” Commissioner Rich Cimino said.
Beyond potential costs the county might incur in prevention and response efforts, McIntire addressed the possible loss of sales tax revenue because of the virus.
According to McIntire, the county budgeted conservatively, so there is a possibility that it won’t have a dollar impact to the budget, but rather keep the county from collecting as much revenue as they could have.
DiAnn Butler, director of Grand County Economic Development, also noted that an outbreak would likely occur during mud season, which would lower the potential impact on sales tax revenue.
Further discussion touched on determining each department’s essential functions to ensure a smoother transition if the county has to take further actions in response to the coronavirus.
Many county departments are encouraging residents to access services whenever possible to reduce the chance of spreading illness.
For example, many of the services provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles can be done online. For public health services, residents can call 970-725-3288 and human services can be reached at 970-725-3331.
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The Grand County Sheriff’s Office fielded 198 calls from May 1-7 while dispatchers answered 398 calls for all first responder agencies in the county.