RANDOLPH COUNTY — A letter circulated to Randolph County employees recently stressed the importance of making responsible decisions about who they are around during the pandemic while they are not at work.
County Manager Hal Johnson addressed the Randolph County Board of Commissioners regarding a policy to ask employees to sign a document that expresses their intent to abide by the policies set forth by the state. Those policies include not attending indoor gatherings of more than 10 people. This followed his update regarding county employees and their level of exposure to COVID-19.
Out of 900 employees, Johnson said 515 have had potential COVID-19 exposures. A total of 58 positive tests have been reported, as well as 184 negative tests and 266 did not require testing. Seven tests were pending as of Dec. 8.
“This pandemic is showing that we’re close to not being able to provide the services that we need because we won’t have the staff there to do it, if we don’t encourage these employees to be smart,” Johnson said. “If I thought years ago that I would be standing here years ago, as your county manager, talking about this situation that has come before county government, I never would have believed that.”
Johnson reiterated the grave nature of the county’s growing numbers, which have impacted the ability of county employees to do their jobs. The county manager is concerned, however, that the job itself is compromised by not only what the employee is doing, but others who render the employee unable to work.
“What you do off site is almost equally as important as what you do on the job,” Johnson said. “Because you can come back and impact an entire shift of people. You can take out supervisors, whole buildings in some instances.”
Commissioner Kenny Kidd indicated that no manner of danger associated with exposure to COVID-19 gives the government the right to dictate what men and women do on their own time. Employees are exposed to the coronavirus more on the job than off the clock, anyway, he said.
Kidd took particular issue with the county’s willingness to ask employees to sign a document expressing their intent to follow the governor’s mandates and recommendations.
“I can’t believe we’re telling grown men and women what they can and cannot do at their grandma’s house,” Kidd said.
Frye clarified the county’s position has been throughout to implement no policy in excess of what the state requires. He explained that the county simply asks residents to abide by the laws already in place.
“The county has not put in place any protocols or restrictions other than those imposed by the state,” Frye said. “Our position has been to call on folks for self-discipline, take care of themselves and their families.”
Johnson said he is concerned about growing fatigue among those in the county who believe the end of the tunnel is near and they have fought to prevent COVID-19 long enough. In particular, he expressed the concern that some might think that because a vaccine is being released that the threat is nullified.
He explained that it could take months for the general population in its entirety to receive vaccination, and some would choose not to do so. Johnson also wondered aloud what the county might decide to mandate regarding its employees receiving the vaccine.
“Whether or not, as a county government, we require people to take the shots is a whole other story,” Johnson said. “All we’re doing now is we’re asking our safety-sensitive employees to follow [current state] guidelines.”
Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.