Washington County has a plan for COVID-19

Robert Houk • Mar 12, 2020 at 9:30 AM

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy says the county has a protocol in place to deal with the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. 

Grandy told members of the county’s Budget Committee on Wednesday that department heads and courthouse officials have a plan for what to do if the virus sidelines deputy clerks. His briefing to commissioners came a day after state health officials confirmed the region’s first case of COVID-19 in Sullivan County.

“Our community is at the crest of the curve in being prepared,” Grandy said, noting Ballad Health, regional health officials and the Washington County Health Department are at the forefront of monitoring the spread of the illness.

He said the county “has planned for the worst,” but anticipates most business at the courthouse will continue as usual.

He said courthouse employees engage in a lot of “face-to-face contact” with the public, which presents a number of ways for the virus to be transmitted. Grandy said the county has a plan in place for employees to work at home if the illness is detected. 

Meanwhile, Grandy said residents will be able to conduct some of their county business online or by mail.

The mayor told commissioners keeping up with developments of the COVID-19 has been a “most amazing moving target” in the last two weeks. He said “some information change on an hourly basis.”

Grandy said the basics for dealing with coronavirus, however, has remained much the same.

“We are talking about good hygiene,” he said. “That means a lot of hand washing.”

In other business, the Budget Committee approved a request for $2,500 to help conduct a feasibility study to explore potential uses for the Ashe Street Courthouse. The appropriation is contingent on the project receiving similar funding from the Johnson City Development Authority.

Earlier this year, Gov. Bill Lee said he has placed $5 million grant in his proposed $40.8 billion state budget for renovations to the 109-year-old former county courthouse at 401 Ashe St. Johnson City officials had met earlier with the governor to outline the city’s plans to use the Ashe Street Courthouse as part of a business incubator.

Commissioner Freddie Malone told his colleagues Wednesday the results of the feasibility study will help “answer questions” and lead to recommendations for how the old courthouse should be repurposed.

He said that report will also help to identify partners in the renovation project.

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