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Face masks required in Black Hawk County courthouse

Face masks required in Black Hawk County courthouse

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WATERLOO — Employees and others entering the Black Hawk County Courthouse will be required to wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But no decision has been made yet on whether to reopen county buildings and offices for public access.

Members of the county Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 Tuesday to adopt the face mask policy effective Monday, subject to a review by County Attorney Brian Williams and the arrival of 2,000 masks the county expects to have shipped by the end of this week.

“There are some strong opinions on both sides of the facial covering issue,” said Supervisor Dan Trelka. “But I think this policy is a fairly good compromise that takes into account what we are trying to accomplish, and that’s the safety of our employees and the public.”

Supervisors Chris Schwartz and Linda Laylin voted with Trelka in favor of the policy.

“I think we put a lot of thought into this,” Schwartz said. “It certainly doesn’t ensure completely 100 percent against it, but this is a strong method, an affordable method, of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses and bugs.”

Supervisor Craig White voted against the policy, saying he wanted the policy to be effective immediately. Supervisor Tom Little was unable to vote when his video connection to the meeting was lost, but later said he agreed with White on starting sooner.

“We’re just going to kick the can down the street,” White said. “I think we ought to start practicing and getting it in place before Monday.”

The policy applies to all county-owned facilities, except the jail, which is controlled by the sheriff.

Face masks must be worn at all times in those buildings by the public and employees, although employees may remove masks when working alone or at their office work spaces. Face masks are defined as “any mask, scarf, or bandana that covers a person’s face and nose.”

The county is planning to supply a face mask free of charge to visitors without their own. Face shields will be provided to those with who can’t wear a face mask for medical reasons.

Despite the adoption of the policy, the supervisors have not yet decided whether to reopen the courthouse to the public. The building has been closed since March 18, open only for a number of employees still working in their offices and emergency court proceedings.

Many county employees have been on paid administrative leave for the past eight weeks.

Trelka said he wanted to supervisors to develop a “measured plan” to bring employees back to work and eventually reopen offices for the public. Elected officials and department heads will be asked about their reopening measures next week.

County Recorder Sandie Smith said she believes most county offices have been preparing for a reopening.

“I think we have been planning so we are ready when we do open,” said Smith, noting her office expects to being conducting most business by appointments only and that access to the records room will be limited to one visitor at a time.

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