Supervisors provide guidelines for county operations in face of virus threat

Published 10:16 am Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Warren County Board of Supervisors has developed a protocol for the county’s department heads and their supervisors to deal with employees who may be sick or suspected of having the coronavirus, COVID-19.

The plan was outlined by Board of Supervisors President Dr. Jeff Holland during a Warren County leadership conference call Tuesday afternoon. Holland said the list is being sent to all department supervisors.

“If you don’t consider yourself a formal supervisor, I’ll just define for you this way: if you manage people, for the sake of this discussion, you’re a supervisor,” Holland said. “If people are following you somewhere, then listen.

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“Basically what we’re asking you to do for those people that serve, the ones that are in your organization, we’re going to ask you to look at whether or not they have been exposed to the coronavirus, ask you whether or not they have been on a cruise, whether or not they’ve been out of the country,” he said. “We’re going to ask you whether or not they’ve been more than 100 miles (from Warren County).”

If an employee’s answers are yes, or they show symptoms of the virus outlined by the Centers for Disease Control — fever, cough, shortness of breath, and/or persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face — they will be screened to determine if they should be quarantined.

He said department supervisors will have to keep records of employees who are sent home for illness, whether for quarantine or because they reported to work sick.

The quarantine, Holland said, is a 14-day process that begins immediately.

“If we had someone who had been formerly exposed to the coronavirus, they should already be in a quarantine protocol,” he said.

Quarantine, he said, “Is to be in the vicinity of or at your home. It’s not to be in your bass boat, it’s not to really even to be walking a golf course; it’s to be at your house. It’s not time off on vacation.”

Holland said the board will support the department supervisors in their decisions to question employees and determine whether an employee should be quarantined or sent home if they appear to be sick.

“You will get complete support from the Board of Supervisors for that and from the county administrator,” he said. “There’s no question that is true and you will see it in writing. That is not a problem. You own that authority and it will be backstopped.”

Holland said some employees who can, could be given duties so they can work at home during the quarantine period.

Whether a quarantined employee is considered on sick leave, vacation or on leave without pay has not been decided by the supervisors, he said.

District 3 Supervisor Shawn Jackson said the board should discuss the pay policy with interim county administrator Loretta Bradley and board attorney Blake Teller.

“In my opinion, we’re trying to keep down a public health crisis and we are forced to be more vigilant, but I don’t feel the employees should take the hit if we can avoid it,” she said.

Holland said the board’s decision could be affected by a bill in the Mississippi Legislature to provide assistance to public employees out of work because of declared emergencies.

The bill, which passed the House Tuesday, deals with pay for county, city and school employees. It was expected to be taken up by the Senate Wednesday, going to the Senate Rules Committee and then the Senate floor, according to information from Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann’s office.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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