County supervisors set new policies in light of COVID-19

County Administrator Ed Gilligan

BISBEE — The first telephonic Cochise County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday went off without a hitch as supervisors Tom Borer, Ann English and Peggy Judd used technology to handle county business following health guidelines.

The supervisors determined last week it was prudent to follow the recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to limit public exposure and maintain a safe distance to prevent any possible spread of the COVID–19 virus to staff and the public.

Call to the Public will not be held at these meetings. Statements from residents pertaining to any of the agenda items will be read as part of the public record. Statements must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on the Monday prior to the meeting to: board@cochise.az.gov. Agendas are posted the Friday afternoon before the scheduled meeting.

Residents who want to listen in to meetings can do so by calling (508) 924–1387.

All of their meetings, until an all-clear is sounded, will be held in this format for at least the next two weeks.

In order to help staff and define what can and cannot be done during situations like the COVID–19 pandemic, assistant county administrator Sharon Gillman proposed some additions to the employee policies establishing a pandemic attendance policy and a telecommuting policy which will carry the county through any future emergencies.

County Administrator Ed Gilligan told the supervisors, “The policies were written to be permanent for the future. Our intent is for these policies to be maintained in any emergency event, not just a health pandemic. That’s just one of many factors. This current situation has provided the need for a foundation for dealing with a number of issues.”

Gillman explained the Pandemic Attendance Policy requires employees with flu–like symptoms to stay at home. It also temporarily allows for full-time employees with flu–like symptoms without leave balances to request up to 80 hours, equal to two weeks of quarantine, of leave debt which has to be paid back by future leave accruals.

“The intent is to promote public health and protect employees from the spread of any virus,” he noted.

The telecommuting policy allows elected officials and department directors to approve telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation while an employee is on intermittent Family Medical Leave Absence, to serve a business need or in the case of a pandemic, Gillman added. Employees must get approval from the appropriate person to work from home and IT must be notified to help set up ease and safety of access.

Gilligan also complimented the staff of Cochise Health and Social Services (CHSS) and county Emergency Services who have helped ease the minds of residents seeking answers. CHSS has “been inundated” with calls and staff have managed with the help from some other departments to keep up with the call volume.

He reminded people in the county to stay calm and look to trusted sources, like the county’s COVID-19 webpage and the CDC websites, for accurate information.

“Here in Cochise County, we are not a densely populated community,” said Gilligan. “Even in Sierra Vista, we have 292 citizens per square mile. In New York, there are 67,000 people per square mile. There, the complexity of transmission of the virus is significant. The picture is alarming on the news. But, we need to keep our local area news positive.”

He reminded the supervisors and those listening that the county has had only one confirmed positive case of a person with the virus, though a number have been tested. All but the one have been negative.

The person infected was traveling in an area with higher numbers of cases and has been in self-quarantine to prevent any spread of the virus since returning to Sierra Vista.

English and Judd complimented staff and how they were handling the situation.

Borer agreed and said, “The health department and the public information officer have been working to keep accurate information going out to the public. There are a lot of professional people helping to guide us. Check the county website for updates. Call us if you have questions. If we continue on this path, we will move through this.”

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