Workplaces reintroducing Covid regulations

Published 6:48 pm Thursday, August 12, 2021

Just as society began to returning to something resembling normalcy,  a recent increase in active Covid cases is leaving workplaces and public spaces to reinstate illness-prevention policies. Meanwhile, many entities continue to struggle to find new employees, increasing the workload on those who are employed. 

“We considered taking down the plexiglass separating our office cubicles,” said Winchester Circuit Clerk Martha Miller. “I’m glad we didn’t.”

The circuit court is only one of many entities that continues to leap hurdles in a pandemic showing no end in sight. Visitors and employees are required to mask up again in circuit court, vaccinated or otherwise. Employees, however, can take their masks off in their cubicles.

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Policy isn’t the only effect the pandemic has had, however. According to Miller, the circuit court is just now getting to 2020 cases that had to be pushed back. 

“Cases got backed up when we were shut down during the start of the pandemic,” Miller explained. “When we opened back up, we took cases via Zoom, but we had a lot of people who didn’t have Zoom access. They didn’t have computer access, so we pushed those cases back.”

Miller estimates that cases could only be taken through Zoom for more than eight months. She also believes that more tham 200 circuit court cases have yet to be heard. 

As a convenience to those without access to Zoom and to those out of state, the circuit court now sees in-person cases every Monday except for the first and last Mondays of the month. Those employed with the circuit court are encouraged to partake in cross-training efforts to better make up for the backlog and empty positions.

Also backed up are requests for drivers’ permits, road tests and commercial drivers’ licenses (CDL). As Miller put it, time didn’t stop when these appointments were pushed back. Teenagers were still reaching legal driving age, licenses still expired and were in need of renewing, people moved in from out of state and needed retake their drivers’ test, and others landed driving-related jobs and were in need of their CDL exams. 

Medical centers and health departments, too, are having to react to the active-case uptick. According to Becky Kissick, administrator of the Clark County Health Department, it was mandated on August 1 that staff wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

“Here at the health department, we’ve seen an increase in reports of positive Covid cases,” said Kissick. “In the month of July, we recognized a five-fold increase in positive cases. We have seen a skyrocketing number of positive cases coming our way for sure.”

Health department staff now have individual work areas to ensure social distancing. Plexiglass barriers have been installed at reception desks and markers have been placed on the floor to help visitors stay six feet apart. In addition, another level of meticulousness has been implemented with patient scheduling to reduce the number of people in the health department at any given moment. 

The Clark County Health Department has also seen an increase in phone calls asking questions about Covid vaccinations. Tuesday, the department hosted a vaccination clinic and saw 40 individuals requesting services. Among those who were diagnosed with Covid, Kissick notes she is seeing more individuals 18 or younger. In addition, Kissick estimates 10 percent of all recent Covid cases were in those who had already received the vaccination.

“What we’re seeing with the Delta variant of Covid is that the high reproduction rate of the virus seemingly can overwhelm the immune system,” said Kissick. “And this might indicate why some who have been vaccinated are having breakthrough positive cases.”

Clark Regional Medical Hospital is preemptively updating their policies to prevent the spread of Covid. Visitation hours have been restricted to be from noon to 7 p.m. Inpatient stays allow one well visitor at a time with no overnights; outpatients are allowed one well visitor, unless assistance is required for navigating or moving around the facility; surgery patients are allowed one well visitor during surgery as long as social distancing requirements can be met; emergency department patients are allowed one designated well visitor; obstetric patients are allowed two well visitors during labor and postpartum; and pediatric patients may have two parents or guardians in all areas. All well visitors must be 18 or older. 

Like the health department, Clark Regional is dealing with an increase in active Covid cases. 

“I’d say since around the first part in June, we’ve seen around two-to-three admissions for active cases a week,” said Emily McCarthy, director of Marketing and Communications with Clark Regional Medical Center. “The last two weeks, we’ve had about eight inpatient stays for Covid. The infection rate is definitely on the uptick.”

At this time, staff is not required to be vaccinated, though management is encouraging staff to get vaccinated. Meanwhile, discussions are being had regarding staff vaccination regulations within Clark Regional’s parent company, LifePoint Health. 

Both the health department and Clark Regional are reporting staffing shortages as well. According to Kissick, health department staff are sometimes burdening extra responsibilities. McCarthy says staffing has been an issue with medical entities throughout the country. 

Staffing continues to be an issue with local businesses and industries, and as this second wave of the pandemic continues, stricter protocols for employees and visitors may be brought back after having been relaxed since the vaccine became more widespread. 

“I think it’s hard to predict how active case rates will change within the coming months,” said McCarthy, “but I think the key right now is that we continue following safety protocols, and encourage as many people as we can to get vaccinated.”