Government, Latest News, Preston County

Preston County Courthouse under COVID response plan

KINGWOOD — The Preston County Courthouse Annex is implementing its COVID response plan after an employee in the building tested positive.

Offices will still be open to serve the public. Masks and social distancing are required to enter. Enter from the parking lot behind the building and exit by the W.Va. 7 doors.

These are similar to the plans implemented in March, County Administrator Kathy Mace said, and are aimed at protecting both the public and the staff.

Mace said it’s hoped the plan can be operative by today. Elected officials will have some staff working from home and some in the office, and/or rotate groups of staff through the office so not all are present at once.

People are also encouraged to use online tools for county business as much as possible and to make appointments with offices if they need to go in to do business.

Preston Circuit Judge Steve Shaffer said his policy that all workers and visitors wear face coverings in the courthouse remains in place. Everyone entering the courthouse also must answer COVID questions and have his or her temperature taken.

Shaffer plans to address the Preston County Commission Tuesday about COVID-19.

Preston County Health Department Director V.J. Davis said, “As soon as we determine the list of people who were identified as close contacts … we will contact those people and let them know that they’ve been identified as a close contact and that they need to quarantine.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a policy that allows people who have been quarantined to continue to work under certain circumstances, he said.

That’s “if it’s considered to be a critical infrastructure office site,” Davis said. “Any government office is going to fall into the category of critical infrastructure.”

That means if someone in the office is officially quarantined they can come to work, “but it has to be considered a last resort,” Davis noted.

“If the person can’t work from home or they just have to have that person there to do their job or they’ve had so many people quarantine that they don’t have enough people to run the office, that kind of thing.”

That person cannot be exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, must wear an N95 mask the entire time they are in the office, cannot have interaction with anyone else in the office such as eating lunch together.

“They’re supposed to just go to the job site, do their work and come home,” he said.

Staff in a government building can be pretty isolated from one another and don’t interact, Davis said. No one in his office has tested positive or been identified as a close contact, he said. “Knock on wood.”

Preston County has experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases during November. As of Thursday, the county has had 12 COVID deaths.