The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors changed its COVID-19 policy at its Monday meeting to bring it in line with the most recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC, which had previously recommended that sick workers stay home for 10 days, issued new guidance last week that cut that time to five days.
County Administrator Jay Fisher asked if the board wanted to change its existing policy to bring it in line with the new guidance, at least in part because some county offices are having staffing problems due to the new Omicron variant.
Previously the county asked workers who tested positive for COVID-19 to stay home for 10 days. Those who were exposed, or asymptomatic, were also out for 10 days but could come back in as few as seven days with a negative test.
Under the new guidance, those who test positive would isolate at home for five days, and then could come back to work but must wear a mask for a further five days. Testing would not be required to come back to work. If exposed, workers would wear a mask for 10 days and be tested on the fifth day.
“We are having some departments that are starting to have trouble getting people to come and work based on Omicron outbreaks,” Fisher said.
District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks said he knew that 911 was having staffing problems.
“(Emergency Management Director Cindy Lawrence) wants people that meet this criteria to come back after five days but wear a mask,” Brooks said. “…She had two administrators and probably four or five dispatchers out.”
“If we follow the CDC’s recommendations, that will alleviate a lot of the absentee problems,” said District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders.
District 2 Supervisor and President Trip Hairston said he didn’t want to get into a situation where the county kept changing its guidelines.
District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith agreed.
“My concern is consistency,” Smith said. “Especially when we deal with our employees. Don’t change and move just based on that particular moment.”
Hairston made a motion, seconded by Brooks, to change the county’s policy to align with the new CDC guidelines. It was approved unanimously.
After the vote, Road Manager Ronnie Burns said he had an employee out currently whose doctor told her to stay out 10 days. He asked what he should do.
Hairston told him to go with the doctor’s note, and Brooks agreed. He then made a motion to let workers stay off longer if they had a doctor’s note to that effect. He was seconded by Smith, and the motion passed unanimously.
“If somebody’s still sick, we don’t want them to come back,” Brooks said.
Fisher was asked about the policy that gives vaccinated employees up to 80 hours of additional sick leave for COVID. He said he wasn’t prepared to make a recommendation on whether to keep that policy or not, but would research it and report back at a future meeting.