Commissioners vote to lift COVID-19 guidelines

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Osage County commissioners voted, 3-0, on April 26 to remove COVID-19 guidelines regarding public access to the county courthouse and other county buildings.

The guidelines were imposed in 2020, in response to the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

“I would like to suggest that we open everything back up next Monday, May 3,” Jerry Roberts, the county’s Emergency Management director, told commissioners April 26.

District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney, who has been the most cautious of the three-person county board members, voiced concerns about being able to reimpose restrictions if it becomes necessary due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, but he voted with his colleagues.

The commissioners were able to reach agreement, however, and vote unanimously in favor of a measure to remove the guidelines as a matter of board policy, but allow department heads to set policy for their own offices.

“We’re going to open fully,” County Clerk Robin Slack told the Journal-Capital on Friday, April 30. She said that she anticipates her office will be operating according to normal procedures.

Slack said she thinks the public will notice at the courthouse entrance that the county has new security scanning equipment, but that should be the only thing that is really different from what was “normal” before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Court Clerk Jennifer Burd said her operations will remain essentially the same as they have been in recent months.

“Mine will largely remain the same,” Burd said in an email, explaining that masks are to be worn and there will be limits on the number of persons allowed into the office to maintain social distancing.

“The public computer is available again on the west side of the office, limited to 20 minutes at a time,” Burd said.

Treasurer Sally Hulse, whose office is in a building separate from the courthouse but nearby, said that she will be trying to limit the number of people being served in the office at one time, and she will have a plastic shield up.

Hulse said her staff is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Visitors may wear masks if they wish, but they will not be required to wear them.

Hulse said she will be keeping an eye out for any changes in the COVID-19 situation.

County Assessor Ed Quinton Jr. said his office at the courthouse will try to serve a limit of two persons or business groups at one time. The office will try to limit the number of individuals or groups to help maintain safe distances, but will not require a mask. Quinton clarified that his staff members do not wear masks.

“They will be behind plexiglass and spread apart,” he said of visitors to the office. He added that his staff can help the public accomplish many tasks without even having to visit the courthouse, thus saving on time and money. Quinton said his objective is to help the public in a respectful, professional manner.

“You might not even have to come up there,” Quinton said.