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Some Clark County workers may take extra paid leave

Clark County employees will have the ability to take additional paid leave for the next several months amid the ongoing response to COVID-19.

The County Council approved the additional leave at a special meeting Monday. The additional leave amounts to three weeks for those who test positive and two weeks for those who have been exposed and are subject to mandatory quarantine. Employees who display symptoms will be placed on leave until 72 hours after the symptoms subside or three weeks, whichever comes first.

Under normal policy, county employees are required to take personal leave if the operations close completely or partially for a full day. The resolution approved Monday allows for two weeks of additional paid leave in such an event, a provision that may be subject to an extension.

“We want to make sure that we’re maximizing on our opportunities so that our employees stay safe while they’re still employed,” interim County Manager Kathleen Otto said.

The county has also encouraged employees to explore telecommuting options and adjust work schedules, Otto said. A group of representatives from all departments as well as elected officials will meet with county public health officials daily to discuss operational changes and needed resources.

Otto said that because of bargaining impasses, the temporary policies will be sent to employee unions this week.

The council unanimously approved, with Councilor Julie Olson absent, the resolution as well as an amendment that ends the policy on Aug. 31. Councilors can also vote to rescind the policy before that or extend it.

While he voted for the resolution, Councilor Gary Medvigy initially proposed an amendment to enact the policies after employees had already exhausted their current paid time off accrual. It died for a lack of second.

“Is it insufficient with the sick leave banked? I mean, obviously, I don’t want anyone to feel pressured to come to work if they’re ill from anything, much less this outbreak,” Medvigy said. “I’m just wondering if this is somewhat of a fiscal overreaction where we already have protections in place for our employees.”

Clark County Public Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick said he “fully supports” the resolution.

“We’re in uncharted territory. But the bottom line is, my people who have mild symptoms, we don’t want them to come to work,” Melnick said. “They might not stay at home otherwise if they don’t have sick leave.”

County officials noted that, if employees are placed on leave and businesses close, services will remain in place, many of which are available online.

For example, county Public Health’s front office, which includes vital records, environmental public health and food worker testing services, will switch to a virtual format beginning Tuesday. The closure will be re-evaluated April 13.

In the meantime, residents can visit the vital records, environmental public health permitting and food worker testing webpages or call 564-397-8000.

“I understand the concern about continuity of government, and we all have those concerns, but closing does not necessarily mean we are no longer providing those services,” Councilor John Blom said. “We’re just going to be looking for new and different ways to provide them to the best we can in response to this.”


Source: https://www.columbian.com

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