District Attorney Mike Fisher told Osage County commissioners Monday that the Oklahoma Department of Health had taken the position that public employees who believe they may have contracted COVID-19, but have no sick leave, should be sent to self-quarantine at home and should be paid anyway.
Fisher explained that District 1 Osage County Commissioner Randall Jones had contacted him about the issue. Fisher said the concern underlying the Health Department’s policy recommendation was that employees who thought they might have COVID-19, but had no sick leave, might be tempted to stay at work to keep from losing their income.
Fisher said he would send out an email on the subject, and indicated he thought employees should be required to get tested for COVID-19 to determine whether, in fact, they have contracted the illness.
Jones said he had an employee who went to the hospital in Bartlesville, seeking a COVID-19 test, and was turned away. Jones said he understood the hospital told his employee to go home and self-quarantine, but would not test the person.
“I had heard most hospitals were doing that,” Fisher said, adding that he would talk with a representative, or representatives, of the state Department of Health on Monday afternoon in Pawnee about how public employees can get tested for COVID-19 if they believe they may have the illness.
Fisher and members of the county Board of Commissioners also talked briefly about trying to maintain some kind of work-related productivity on the part of employees who are assigned to work from home. Fisher explained that, in the absence of anything else that could be done, some district attorney’s office personnel had been instructed to engage in legal study.
County Clerk Shelia Bellamy commented that her employees really can’t do things at home that are elements of their jobs. County Treasurer Sally Hulse voiced concern that she’s not sure, given the fluidity of scheduling due to COVID-19, whether to continue preparing for a property resale.
In other health-related business, Jones said Monday that he had talked with state Health Department regional administrator Kelli Rader regarding the concern of Osage County officials that they have not been receiving sufficient information and support from the department. Osage County levies a quarter-cent sales tax in support of its county Health Department. Members of the board of commissioners, as well as private citizens, commented in a March 16 meeting they were frustrated with the Health Department.
“We just need to work together so we don’t get so far apart,” Jones said Monday, regarding the relationship between county officials and the Health Department. “We’re trying to get to where we want to be.”
Jones added that Health Department officials seem open to the contention that Osage County has particular needs that are different from those of other counties.
District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney said there had also been email contact between the county and the health department.
In other business Monday, the commissioners voted 3-0 to buy a new metal detector for the courthouse for $4,095.