Johnson County government buildings will start to reopen on June 8, but officials decide against mandatory temperature checks

The Johnson County administration building, May 29, 2020. — Paul Brennan/Little Village

Johnson County government buildings will begin to reopen to the general public on June 8. The buildings were closed to public starting on March 18, as part of the county’s effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

During the first phase of reopening, appointments will be necessary to conduct any business.

“People accessing County buildings will be expected to wear a face covering,” Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan said in his weekly email newsletter. “County staff will have disposable masks available for anyone who needs one.”

Only one entrance will be open at each building, and a sign listing the known symptoms of COVID-19 will be posted at those entrances. The signs will also ask people experiencing symptoms to refrain from coming in the building.

“We spent quite a while discussing the idea of taking temperatures at the front door, but decided against it,” Sullivan said.

“There were simply far too many things making temperature checks an unrealistic option, primarily the fact that many people could still be contagious and walk right in,” according to Sullivan.

In his “Sullivan’s Salvos” newsletter, the supervisor listed some of the main problems with mandatory temperature checks.

1. You can be contagious with the virus and not have a fever.

2. In order to have properly trained people taking the temps, we would need to divert paramedics from more urgent tasks.

3. Because of HIPPA, people would need to be screened in a separate room. We simply don’t have the facilities to do this.

4. Lines created in the parking lot for testing would likely be a worse scenario than simply admitting people at their scheduled appointment time.

5. Remote, no-touch temperature screens are notoriously inaccurate.

6. A private business has a bit more leeway in terms of telling people they cannot enter; these buildings are owned by the public.

7. How would we deal with someone who refuses to have her temperature taken? Would we need to keep a deputy at the door at all times? Are we ready to jail folks for issues of noncompliance?

Sullivan said the county is encouraging anyone who can transact their businesses remotely — online, over the phone or by mail — to do so. County employees who can work from home are still encouraged to do so. Personal protective equipment will be available to people working in the buildings.

Plexiglas shields have been installed at counters where the public is served, and floor decals indicating proper spacing for social distancing will be in place. Additional daily cleaning is scheduled for the buildings.

“This has been a very challenging period,” Sullivan said. “It continues to be a very challenging period. There are no easy answers in terms of what to do. We will give this a try, and hope things go well.”

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