Lawrence County Commissioners update COVID-19 policy

BEDFORD – The Lawrence County Commissioners continue to place the highest priority on the health, safety, and wellbeing of the Lawrence County community and its employees while protecting the continuity of essential county functions.

This morning, the commissioners voted effective today and extending through December 31, 2021, Lawrence County’s workplace policies are being amended and enhanced for those employees under the Lawrence County Personnel Policy Handbook, regardless of the current length of employment.

These policies will be revisited regularly, and employees should continue to check with their Department Head or elected official for updates. These enhanced policies do not automatically apply to employees of 24/7 or emergency operations; those employees should consult their department heads or elected officials for further instructions.

Public access to the courthouse will continue with the normal operating hours of Monday- Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m..  Department heads and elected officials will have the discretion to provide services by appointment only if desired.  In order to gain entry to the courthouse and plaza buildings all citizens and county employees will be required to have their temperature checked by security personnel each time they enter and produce a reading below 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.  Masks are recommended and will be provided by security for those citizens and county employees who need them.  

The county has provided personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer for employees.  Employees are recommended to wear a mask when dealing with the public in close proximity.  The county has also put up plexiglass shields on countertops in high-traffic departments as a further safety measure to protect both employees and citizens.  Additional protective measures may be added when deemed necessary.  

Employees who are well are expected to continue to work (in office or remotely if possible), even if they have been in contact with or caring for someone who is ill with an ordinary respiratory illness (in which case, typical preventive measures are recommended for them as caregivers).

Sick Employees

Sick employees who have symptoms of respiratory illness must stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g., cough suppressants). A fever is defined as a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius taken by an oral thermometer. Those with concerns or questions about their illness or seeking advice about whether to come to work are invited to email human resources or emergency management.

Employees who are able and healthy are expected at work as scheduled.  Retroactive to February 2, 2021, all eligible full-time employees who didn’t use Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) time previously may take paid sick leave up to two weeks, paid at the regular rate because the employee:  (part-time employees may take the typical hours they work in a two-week period, paid at the regular rate). 

  1. Tested/tests positive for COVID-19, results must be provided to Human Resources in order to qualify for Emergency Paid Sick Leave.

* Employees who didn’t use their full 10 days of EPSL previously can still use their balance of EPSL if the testing requirements are met and documentation is provided to Human Resources.  

Emergency Paid Sick Leave

Employees who are able and healthy are expected at work as scheduled. An eligible full-time employee may use their PTO and/or Sick time up to 10 consecutive days, paid at their regular rate because the employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; 

  1. advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns; 
  2. experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis; 
  3. caring for an individual subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns; 
  4. caring for the employee’s child if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the child’s care provider is unavailable due to public health emergency; or 
  5. experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

Modifications to Normal Operations

While the primary goal is to keep operating as normal as possible there may be situations in which modifications to department operations or service offerings must take place.  Departments should continue to practice social distancing (employees separation of at least six feet) where possible. This may continue to lead to limits on public interactions with your department. Please balance these considerations with the goal of ensuring continuity of operations. 

Lawrence County continues to offer the option of allowing office staff who can work remotely to continue to do so but this will be left up to the discretion of department heads and elected officials with the factors of meeting operational needs and the employee’s ability to work remotely taken into consideration. Lawrence County will continue to inform the community immediately about changes to any operating procedures going forward.  

 Employees age 65 or older and those with high-risk health conditions are recommended to continue to work from home if possible.  However, Department heads/Elected officials can approve these high-risk employees to return to work by putting the approval in writing and providing the statement to human resources.  These employees at increased risk for complications from COVID-19 are urged to consult their physician about steps they can take to protect their health. These may include requesting a temporary change in job location, hours, assignment or duties, or implementation of additional protective measures such as working remotely to reduce their exposure to others or chances of being infected.

If an employee is at risk for complications from COVID-19 and their physician agrees that increased social distancing in the workplace is prudent, the employee should contact the HR office to formally request a temporary change. Human Resources will confidentially evaluate the request, explore alternatives, and attempt to appropriately address the employee’s health concerns while maintaining Lawrence County’s operations. A doctor’s note may be required.

Except for employees who formally request a change in job circumstances due to underlying health conditions, employees will generally not be reassigned to new duties, locations, or roles or be provided with paid sick/release time solely to address concerns about the potential for COVID-19 infection.

Lawrence County Commissioners are requiring that all Lawrence County elected officials, employees, and contractors:

  • If you have been in contact directly with a confirmed or suspicious case you must self- isolate for 10 days, or choose to obtain a COVID-19 test after the 5th day of quarantine, and may return to work after the 7th day with confirmation of a negative test result provided to their supervisor and/or human resources.
  • If you are a confirmed or suspected case you must quarantine for 10 days, or choose to obtain a COVID-19 test after the 5th day of quarantine, and may return to work after 7 days with confirmation of a negative test result provided to their supervisor and/or human resources.
  • Monitor for symptoms, but continue working, if you have had a 2nd or 3rd party exposure (fever, cough, difficulty breathing etc.)

If recommended social distancing measures are insufficient, departments may need to consider further reductions in physical proximity to the public, up to and including closing offices to the general public to reduce further spread of COVID-19. Departments should ensure that the public is informed of alternate methods of conducting business with the department and if no alternate methods exist, may need to consider temporary modifications of processes, procedures, rules, and deadlines. Departments may also need to consider alternate methods of conducting business due to a lack of available employees. To increase employee availability, departments may need to permit flexing work hours or permitting remote work where feasible and manageable.

Lawrence County respects the right to privacy of any employee who has a communicable disease or virus. All employee records or information regarding communicable diseases will be confidentially maintained in a secure area with the Human Resources department, apart from the employee’s personnel file. The employee’s medical condition will be disclosed only to the extent necessary to minimize the health risks to co-workers, individuals, and others. Lawrence County will comply with all federal and state laws in regard to confidentiality and privacy requirements.

Employees returning to work after testing positive for COVID-19

Employees who test positive for COVID-19 must quarantine for 10 days unless they choose to obtain a COVID-19 test after the 5th day of quarantine and may return to work after the 7th day with confirmation of a negative test result provided to their supervisor and/or human resources.  The employee must also not have a fever or other COVID-19 symptoms without the use of medication before returning to work.  When employees return to work their temperature must be taken daily and they must wear also a mask in all county buildings when necessary.  If an employee’s symptoms re-appear they will be sent home immediately.  

If an employee has just come out of quarantine due to COVID-19 and is directly exposed again within the next 14 days they must receive a negative test and provide the results to the Human Resources Department in order to avoid a subsequent quarantine.  

Symptoms of COVID-19

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath. A fever is defined as a body temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit taken by an oral thermometer. These are also compatible symptoms of COVID-19, so employees should error on the side of caution. The temperature should be measured without the use of a fever-reducing medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Employees who develop ANY COVID-19 symptom or COVID-19 compatible symptom should not report to work but should call a physician for further direction. Employees with symptoms should not go directly to a doctor, a clinic, or a hospital without first calling for guidance.

However, if you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include, but are not limited to, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, and bluish lips or face.

This policy is subject to modification by the Board of Commissioners. Changes in policy will be communicated to employees as best as possible. 

*The Centers for Disease Control defines close contact as a) being within approximately 6 feet of a COVID-19 case for a minimum of 15 minutes; close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case or b) having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on).