BY GABE LICHT
BUFFALO, MN Wright County officials are anticipating about $400,000 in grant funds to combat COVID-19.
The county board of commissioners accepted an initial grant of $147,695 during an emergency meeting March 20.
The grant covers the establishment and operation of temporary sites to provide testing services; treatment beds to isolate or quarantine affected individuals; temporary conversion of space for another purpose that will revert back to its original use; staff overtime and the hiring of additional staff; staff training and orientation; protective, consumable supplies or treatment for the protection or treatment of staff, visitors, and patients; development and implementation of screening or testing procedures; patient outreach activities; additional emergency transportation of patients; temporary information technology and system costs to assist with patient triage; cleaning supplies; expenses related to isolation or quarantine of staff, not including wages for staff being isolated.
Wright County Public Health Director Sarah Grosshuesch told the board staff in her department has been tracking their time and expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One thing we’ve been asked to do by the organization advocating for us through AMC [Association of Minnesota Counties] is if we can give them updates to our costs,” Grosshuesch said.
She noted that the county has been providing support for individuals who have symptoms and cannot get tested. However, for it to be considered isolation and quarantine, there must be a positive test for COVID-19, she said.
Staff in her department is staying in touch with individuals who participate in 60+ and Healthy clinics.
“We are contacting all of them,” Grossheusch said. “Each of those phone calls take about 30 minutes. They are feeling rather isolated.”
Her department is trying to do more outreach.
“We’re promotion conversations of what questions kids and young people have about the disease,” Grossheusch said. “We want to share factual information that helps them feel calm.”
In addition to accepting the grant and receiving the update from Grossheusch, the board approved the minutes and recommendations of a March 19 committee of the whole meeting.
Extending the current employee compensation plan to April 4, which allows employees to work from home.
Having department heads provide an estimate of the number of employees who will not be physically able to return to work after April 4 due to the impacts of COVID-19.
Scheduling a committee of the whole meeting regarding COVID-19 strategies for 10 a.m. Thursday, March 26.
Determining how many employees have no access to the internet or a computer at home.
In related business, Chief Deputy Attorney Brian Asleson told the commissioners they have the ability to meet by telephonic or other means.
“I wonder if it’s unwise to keep holding in-person meetings,” Asleson said. “I don’t know if the board has considered that or not. Other public bodies have gone that direction.”
Commissioner Charlie Borrell called into the meeting, but the other commissioners were present, as were several department staff members.