Garfield County government offices moving to reopen on Monday, with restrictions
Garfield County government administrative offices are expected to reopen in a limited capacity Monday, Sept. 21, after six months of being closed to the public and most county workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A plan presented to the county commissioners on Monday calls for offices to reopen to employees at 50% capacity, and with public health practices in place. Those include the mandatory wearing of face masks, distancing between people and regular cleaning and sanitation, County Manager Kevin Batchelder said.
The plan applies to all offices that aren’t run separately by elected officials. The elected county assessor, treasurer, clerk and recorder, sheriff and district attorney can choose to adopt the plan, or implement their own office reopening policies, Batchelder said.
“I will note that all county services have continued during the pandemic, without interruptions,” he said.
About 60% of the county’s workforce was able to carry out their functions from home, and many offices implemented curbside customer services, drop boxes and made use of online platforms to provide public services, he said.
“We are still in the Safer at Home mode [regarding public health restrictions],” Batchelder noted. “Until we move to (the less-restrictive) Protect Our Neighbors status, it’s proposed that we stage reopening on a limited and incremental basis.”
That will likely mean limited office hours, fewer days of operation, service by appointment only, and limits on gathering sizes, he said.
County Commission Chairman John Martin praised the work that went into developing the plan to resume in-person county services, even if limited in nature.
“It’s time to get started, and get back to reality, instead of the pandemic world,” Martin said. “It’s going to be difficult. There are going to be choices, and people need to be safe. But I don’t think we’ve rushed into it.”
Batchelder said the primary objective in crafting the reopening is to keep employees safe, “while still providing essential services to the citizens of Garfield County.
“A significant number of employees continue to work from home, and we understand that it may not be wise to congregate our employees in an office setting until the exposure risk is less.”
Some of the larger county departments, such as Human Services, which has 113 employees between offices in Rifle and Glenwood Springs, will want to stagger hours and have flexible work schedules, he said.
A COVID-19 outbreak, or even a single case in which multiple employees may be exposed, could lead to service reductions if workers have to be sent home to quarantine, Batchelder said.
County Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico said her office has to be extra careful in allowing workers back in with the upcoming election. During that stretch, it will be all-hands-on-deck to provide voter services and receive, process and count ballots that are to be mailed to voters the week of Oct. 12.
“This [reopening plan] does not mean people will be allowed back into the Rifle Administration Building or the county courthouse as if it were back to normal,” she said.
Alberico also encouraged people to continue to take care of business, such as motor vehicle registration, licenses and voter registration online, rather than trying to do it in person.
As part of the reopening plan, each county department is being asked to:
- Assess their risk for each position or task, and make staffing decisions accordingly
- Post signs regarding face masks and other requirements
- Meet social distancing requirements
- Erect physical barriers or make alterations where needed
- Develop and explain office hygiene and personal protective equipment plans
- Have a plan to address the needs of at-risk or vulnerable employees or customers
- Communicate and provide training to ensure employees know what is expected.
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