In its regular session for March, Monday, the Howard County Quorum adopted an ordinance addressing leave policies related to the COVID-19 virus.
Judge Kevin Smith told the JPs that the ordinance was suggested by the Arkansas Association of Counties. It would grant up to a 14-day paid leave for any county employee who has been exposed to or diagnosed with the virus in order to isolate them from the otherwise healthy public. Employees who must be absent from work due to the virus illness of a child must use any accrued paid time off, including vacation, but without being disciplined.
The vote was unanimous.
The court heard from two other persons in virus-related matters.
Donna Webb, administrator of the Howard County Health Unit, gave the court an update on her comments made last week at a joint meeting with other officials in the Nashville High School cafeteria. “The whole goal is containment,” Webb said.
Debra Wright, administrator of Howard Memorial Hospital, was present to give her usual quarterly report to the quorum court, and she also spoke about the hospital’s preparations and response to the virus. She described the steps already taken, and said that the hospital did have a ‘Plan B” if a case of the virus is confirmed here.
Visitors to the hospital are screened at the lobby entrance, and the hospital’s employees ‘self screen.’
Judge Smith presided. Constitutional officers present included County Clerk Keri Teague, Treasurer Sheri Mixon, Circuit Clerk Angie Lewis, Sheriff Bryan McJunkins, and legal counsel Aaron Brasel. Also, administrative assistant Kookie Buice and county clerk aide Taylor Stone. The whole court was present, including Martha Hobbs, Brent Pinkerton, Janice Huffman, Bobby Don Turner, Andy Hogg, Don Marks, Jerry Harwell, Kerry Strasner and Dick Wakefield.
The Pike County Quorum Court addressed a pair of items related to the corona virus at Monday night’s meeting.
First, an ordinance sent out by the Governor’s office was passed that states as the virus is a public health emergency, any county employee diagnosed with the contagion will be forced to be quarantined for up to 14 days.
However, with documentation from a doctor, the employee will be continued to be paid and not be forced to use vacation or accrued time off.
Additionally, any county employee with children stricken with the virus and forced to stay home as a caregiver will be allowed to use current and banked family leave medical act time without fear of reprisal, such as being written up.
Hesston Teel, Pike County Emergency Services Coordinator, told the Quorum Court that many of the counties around Pike has made the decision to eliminate public access to the county buildings, with only Howard County waiting to see how it all shook out before making a decision.
The court debated momentarily before leaving the decision to Pike County Judge Dewight Mack, who said it was his preference to eliminate public access to the Pike County Courthouse and associated offices.
Therefore the offices will remain in operation and be available via fax, phone or e-mail.