Curry County will be hosting a National Guard Unit to assist it with the latest surge of COVID 19 and the Delta variant, according to information revealed at the Curry County Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday.
The exact date has yet to be announced but according to Community Development Director, Connie Hunter, “They’re on the way.”
The subject of how to best deal with the coronavirus remains a point of contention among commissioners with Court Boice asking fellow commissioners what should be done to better protect the public in the wake of 27 new cases in the past week.
The total number of documented cases in Curry County is at 1,495 with a reported 16 deaths as a result of the virus. The centers for Disease Control reports a recent spike in the number of cases since late August with roughly 24 cases every seven days.
“Can we see what we can do to make a difference and do the right thing? Do we want to create a mask mandate?” asked Boice.
Commissioner John Herzog responded in the negative. “I don’t think it’s our right.”
Boice continued by discussing the possibility of discouraging tourism during the virus surge. He asked fellow commissioners if they would support discouraging visitors from coming until infection cases subsided.
Herzog maintained his opposition. “I in no way can say don’t come to Curry County unless you don’t feel good. It’s common sense.”
Herzog’s position was supported by Commissioner Christopher Paasch. “I don’t want to mandate anything to risk the right of citizens.”
Commissioners also deliberated on protocols for staff and county offices. They opted to leave it up to individual department heads as to closing doors to the public and allowing phone appointments.
However, they voted in favor of allocating $100,000 from federal relief dollars to support county employees who are struck by COVID to receive pay while out sick.
It was briefly argued by Commissioner Paasch. “This could easily be abused. I would support it if employees had to use up their sick time before accessing this money.”
However Finance Director Brad Rueckert stated that in order to access the funds employees would need a doctor’s note confirming COVID. He further stated that if employees exhausted all sick days due to COVID, they’d have no days left in case of another illness. Commissioners found the argument compelling enough to vote in favor. They agreed to monitor funds used throughout the remainder of the year.
Commissioners also approved a $31,000 allocation to hire a full time janitor with an emphasis on sanitizing the county building. The county has been without a full time janitor for some months in an effort to tighten its belt, but given its allocation of $4.4 million in federal funds over a two year period to deal with COVID under the “American Rescue Plan” they were able to fund the position.