The Butler County commissioners are looking for ways to help those in danger during the coronavirus pandemic and taking steps to protect their own employees while still offering essential services to the public, they said.
The commissioners approved a resolution that gives County Administrator Judi Boyko the authority to quickly respond to the ever-changing environment and implement a three-tiered approach with hopes to contain spread of the potentially deadly disease.
Boyko said the county has already implemented the first tier, which includes sanitizing all county facilities and encouraging employees to stay home if they are sick.
The next two tiers involve finding ways to limit use of county facilities, curtailing out-of-town travel for training and finding ways for employees to work remotely. The most drastic step would be to shut down county buildings, which has not happened.
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“The county will continue to function, it may be functioning in a little different look, but it still will be open for business,” Commissioner Don Dixon told the Journal-News. “We’ll still be able to help protect our employees and the rest of the community by not having everybody elbow-to-elbow and exposed to the public every day.”
He said he expects 40 to 50 percent of the nearly 600 employees under the commissioners direct control will be able to work remotely. Other office olders will determine for themselves how to respond to the global call for “physical distancing.”
Jenny Bailer, commissioner of the Butler County General Health District, said as of Sunday six people has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, but to her knowledge only one person has been hospitalized. She has quarantined another 40 people who are at risk because they may have been exposed.
Commissioner Cindy Carpenter asked her fellow commissioners to approve a $200,000 general fund transfer to Bailer and the health department.
“I really think that she needs to have it and be comfortable and respond every day to what’s changing and know that there’s resources right there that she can tap into and move quickly,” Carpenter said, adding that generally there can be delays in approving and actually receiving funds from the county.
Part of the resolution the commissioners passed allows Boyko to authorize expenditures up to $100,000 for expenses related to the pandemic, without needing a commission vote. Dixon said for now that should suffice, if not the commissioners can give more.
“Whatever she needs to help her do her job the county will be there to back it up. I’m not comfortable putting a number on that because I don’t think $200,000 is nearly enough, but I don’t know that to be sure,” Dixon said.
He said to Bailer, “We’ve communicated to you enough if financial issues come to be a factor, you know where to get it.”
No vote was taken on Carpenter’s request.
Dixon also said he wanted a committee formed to figure out how the county can reach senior citizens directly, since they are the most vulnerable. He said much emphasis has been put on protecting nursing home residents and elderly who are already receiving services such as Meals on Wheels, but those people are in the minority of the elderly population.
“There’s a lot of seniors who don’t fall into any of those categories,” Dixon said. “I don’t know how you get to those folks, maybe having a senior hotline or something, because a lot of them are afraid to ask, or don’t know how to ask and I have to think it’s terribly frightening for those folks.”
Commissioner T.C. Rogers said he knows of many able-bodied residents who would love to help out, going to the grocery store or running other errands so those people can stay safe.
“I know of one subdivision and many other people that are just chomping at the bit to help,” Rogers said. “I think that is something we commissioners should come up with a way to facilitate this and get this done with private and public entities.”
Bailer said a task force has been convened to address issues like this. Representatives from law enforcement, schools, government, hospitals, long term care facilities, mental health, addiction treatment, mass transit, fire departments, the visitors bureau and more will be attending.
“We felt the need to bring together a disparate group of people around the county to work on this…,” Bailer told the Journal-News. “We wanted a smaller task force of people who are in a position to make decisions and get things done as opposed to a public meeting kind of thing. This will be a work group and our initial conversation will be what needs do you have, what needs are not being fulfilled right now and how can we fill those.”
How to take precautions
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; dry hands with a clean towel or air dry hands.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.
- Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Clean "high-touch" surfaces daily. These include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, light switches, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, desks, and tablets.
Source: Ohio Department of Health