Despite not being covered under the Federal Emergency Management Association’s reimbursement, the screening of visitors at the Jones County Courthouse will continue.

The matter was brought up for discussion by Jones County Auditor Janine Sulzner Sept. 22 when the FEMA guidelines changed for what was allowed for reimbursement. Since the measure was primarily put in place to prevent community spread and not to protect emergency workers, the program was no longer eligible for reimbursement.

Therefore, Sulzner wanted to get the opinion of the supervisors as to whether they wanted to continue the screenings, which cost an estimated $1,000 per week.

Department heads on hand felt that stopping now would be a bad idea, as Jones County Public Health minutes earlier had reported there were 88 active cases in the county.

“With cases being the highest that they’ve been, it scares me to back off any of the measures we have in place,” Jones County Treasurer Amy Picray said, especially since the department has been slowly increasing the number of customers they’ve been seeing.

With those increased numbers in the hallways, Jones County Emergency Management Coordinator Brenda Leonard said the screenings were still necessary.

Jones County Sheriff Greg Graver checked with Jones County Regional Medical Center, and the hospital said they were going to keep their screening and security measures in place for the foreseeable future, wanting to see major decreases or a vaccine before those measures were loosened. With coronavirus fatigue setting in, in regard to mask wearing or limiting public trips, any loosening of restrictions could increase exposure.

“I think the issue is because we’ve been fairly protected here at the courthouse. Is that because we’ve been lucky, is that because courthouse staff has been responsible in their personal life in where they’re going and what they’re doing, or is it in part because of the protective measures we’ve put in place to protect staff?” Graver said. “The answer to that is probably all of the above, but we don’t know what the direct correlation is.”

While the sheriff’s office is pretty well protected and isolated, the jail has seen cases in prisoners and jail staff.

When it came to the staffing of the door, Graver talked to his staff and said they had gotten into a routine of staffing the door. It would not be too much of a burden for that to continue, and the staff would be happy to provide the service.

“I don’t think with the numbers and everything else going on…now is the time to be lifting,” Graver said and that it could be reevaluated if the situation improves.

The supervisors agreed. Wayne Manternach said that from public health’s perspective, there was no desire to loosen things. Fellow supervisor Ned Rohwedder said with the current case count, the measure remained necessary.

Funds for the continued measures could come from the sheriff’s budget with some savings they’ve seen from other areas, and Sulzner said with extra grant money the county has received, she didn’t see a negative impact on the county’s fund balance.

The measure to keep the security passed unanimously. Separate screening will likely be put in place for those coming to the courthouse for court business.

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