This story first appeared in the Dec. 30 issue of the Community Voice. For your best source for local news and sports, call 270-384-9454 for a subscription.
The Adair County Fiscal Court approved first reading of a policy Tuesday that moves the county toward tighter vaccination requirements for all employees.
The policy would require all county employees to show proof of vaccination or wear masks during work hours and get tested weekly. The county would cover costs for testing.
“We don’t like this any more than the employees do, but we don’t have a choice,” said Adair County Judge Executive Gale Cowan. “I am vaccinated, and I don’t care to tell people I am vaccinated. But I don’t think I should mandate our employees have to be vaccinated. I think it should be their personal choice.”
The county falls under a federal mandate through U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration Covid-19 requirement for employers with 100 or more employees.
Employers now have until Jan. 10 to develop their policy, determine which employees have been fully vaccinated and to begin requiring unvaccinated employees to wear a mask. They have until Feb. 9 to begin weekly Covid-19 testing for employees who decline to be vaccinated.
“This OSHA requirement is to take effect on Jan. 10, while the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on it on Jan. 7,” Judge Cowan said. “So, we’re having to move forward as if it is going to take effect. The second reading will be Jan. 10. We’re going to have to move forward until we get a ruling from the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court votes it down, then we will end the policy. “If OSHA checks and we are found to not be in compliance, then we could be fined $13,000 per employee. If we’re found to be a repeat offender, we could be fined over $130,000.”
Elected officials are included in the mandate as well as employees of the fiscal court, county judge, sheriff, county clerk, jailer, coroner, county attorney and constable.
“I think this is going to cause a lot of companies to start losing employees,” Cowan said. “I don’t think it is right. I believe it should be a personal choice. I want all our employees and the community to realize this is not something we want to do. The federal government is requiring us to do it.”
Jail has major water break
The court also voted Tuesday to declare a state of emergency at the jail because of a water break.
“We declared a state of emergency, which allows you to avoid bids,” Cowan said. “They turned on the main valve today and there is a leak somewhere between the meter and the building. They’re estimating it to be a $30,000 project. Usually, any project over $30,000 has to bid out. But we can’t turn the water off; inmates have to have water. So, I want to get rolling on it and save as much time as we can.”
By Scott Wilson