Due to the escalation of COVID-19 infections in Payne County, with five cases of the illness now confirmed, the Payne County Budget Board held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss the county’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The county moved to a Trigger 3 level of response Monday when a third case – the second to be assumed community spread – was announced.
The board decided that all county offices will remain open, but the public will have limited physical access to county facilities and face-to-face contact with county employees will be minimized.
The Sheriff’s office will provide deputies at both the north and south entrance to the Payne County Administration Building to greet anyone entering the building.
The deputies will provide a list of phone numbers people can use to call the desired county office.
A runner from the office will come to the front door and receive documents that need to be processed by the office and provide further information.
The runners will wear masks and gloves to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission.
The Payne County Courthouse will also remain open.
People who need to file pleadings with the Court Clerk are asked to remain at the Sheriff’s security check point on the first floor. The clerk’s office is also sending runners to pick up paperwork that needs to be filed.
County officers are making decisions about letting vulnerable employees stay at home and work remotely, if possible. Inter-office transactions, including purchase orders, will be handled electronically.
Future meetings of the County Commissioners and the Budget Board may be handled remotely through Cisco’s Webex video conferencing app.
A trial run is scheduled for Monday’s meeting of the Board of County Commissioners. Sheriff Kevin Woodward is providing the technical expertise for installing the app.
Up to 50 people can participate in the conference using high-definition video, Woodward said. Members of the public can participate in the meetings by installing the app, and using the “Room Number,” which is a nine-digit number associated with the video conference.
Woodward said that the public will also have the option to participate in the virtual conference by dialing a designated phone number.
Agencies that have offices located in the County Administration Building or the courthouse have closed or will be closing those offices to the general public. They include Payne County CASA for Kids, the CLEAN Program, Early Settlement Mediation, Environmental Enforcement, and the OSU Extension Office.
Environmental Enforcement remains on call to fulfill its responsibilities to keep trash from being dumped along county roadways.
Budget Board Chairman Chris Reding advised the board that he is in the process of completing an order with 3M Company, a manufacturer located in the U.S., to provide a pallet of 14,000 N-95 masks for use by county departments. The order is being placed in conjunction with an order from Stillwater Medical Center.
Woodward said the masks are essential protective equipment for his officers. The masks help protect the wearer from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face.
Woodward’s office is also acquiring P-100 masks, which are much more expensive than N-95 masks, but offer a higher level of protection and have cartridges that can be replaced.
A P-100 mask will block 99.9% of particles .3 microns or larger – A micron is one millionth of a meter, Woodward said.
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