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Linn County supervisors extend telework policy for county employees, discuss employee testing and Test Iowa

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Jean Oxley Public Service Center, 935 2nd St SW, Cedar Rapids, April 20, 2020. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

As the state continues to reopen, Linn County officials are thinking about ways to protect their employees, including extending telework policies and looking into testing county employees for COVID-19.

Most county buildings are closed to the general public through June 15. Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors discussed installing Plexiglas barriers and signs on the floor in county buildings to help with social distancing. There will also be a security guard present at the Harris Building, Public Service Building and the Community Services Building for at least three months after reopening.

On May 11, Supervisor Ben Rogers said the board should “strongly consider” requiring employees and members of the public to wear a face mask of their own or one that is provided by the county.

During the board’s meeting on Wednesday, May 27, Supervisor Brent Oleson said he has asked Linn County Public Health to look into testing for county employees in anticipation of county buildings opening in June.

Oleson would like to see any employees who have been exposed or think they’ve been exposed to be able to get a test, and for obtaining a test to not be an issue.

“I just really think that as an organization this large we need to have some sort of procedure that we can call our own and we [can] count on with regard to testing,” Oleson said.

Linn County Board of Supervisors Meeting May 27, 2020.Comments are not moderated.

Posted by Linn County, Iowa on Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The board passed temporary employment policies for county workers in March, which included paid leave as a result of COVID-19 and a telework policy. The board approved extending the telework policy for county employees through August 31.

“We embarked on something new a few months ago, which was allowing employees who could telework to do so,” Linn County’s HR director Lisa Powell said. Powell presented the board with information from a survey she conducted on what department heads and managers thought about telework.

“Overall, the survey shows that we can do this successfully.”

Powell said extending the telework policy through the end of August will give time to “see how it’s working before we decide permanently what we’ll do with that.”

The board also voted 2-1 in favor of the ATV ordinance during its second reading. The third and final reading is scheduled for Wednesday, June 3.

The National Guard assists Test Iowa operations in Cedar Rapids, May 7, 2020. — National Guard

Test Iowa testing has ‘ramped up’

Linn County Public Health Director Pramod Dwivedi said the county’s Test Iowa site has “ramped up their testing.” The last two testing days had more than 300 tests completed each day. The previous high for testing at the Test Iowa site was 211 tests completed on Monday, May 18.

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Dwivedi said 324 tests were completed on Friday, May 22, and 304 tests were completed on Tuesday, May 26. A total of 1,776 tests have been completed so far, according to Dwivedi.

Since the Linn County site opened in Cedar Rapids earlier this month, Linn County officials have raised concerns about the lag-time for receiving results, inconclusive test results and lack of communication from the state.

LCPH’s Tricia Kitzmann, who is the incident commander for the department’s COVID-19 response, sent an email to the Reynolds administration describing the concerns raised.

“This should be a team effort (Federal, State and County) as we try to maximize testing services for our residents,” Kitzmann wrote in the email, which was obtained by the Des Moines Register. “We feel that we are at a disadvantage as the data is not being shared at the county level to allow for a complete testing picture.”

Linn County has 953 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 76 deaths related to the virus, according to LCPH’s data updated at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. A total of 816 residents have recovered.

Community spread makes up 420 cases — or 44 percent of the total number of cases in Linn County — based on LCPH’s phased reopening dashboard which was made public in mid-May.

LCPH identifies additional “outbreak clusters” on the dashboard:

Community spread: 420 cases, 44.1 percent

Long-term care: 218 cases, 22.9 percent

Manufacturing plant: 148 cases, 15.5 percent

Group home and residential care: 117 cases, 12.3 percent

General business: 26 cases, 2.7 percent

Hospital: 23 cases, 2.4 percent


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