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Closed to the public: Jefferson County Commission closes all county buildings through March 31
March 20, 2020

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CHARLES TOWN -- On Tuesday afternoon, the Jefferson County Commission agreed to pass a policy declaration related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While at the time, the commission was unaware that the state's first confirmed case of the virus was in the Eastern Panhandle, the commission explained their reasoning for holding an emergency meeting to pass the policy, was due to their certainty that the pandemic would soon reach West Virginia. The meeting was broadcast online, but closed to the physical presence of the public in the JCCC meeting room below the Charles Town Library, to follow the recommendations of the president and governor to prevent the spread of the virus by having no more than 10 people meeting together at the same time.

"This all came hot off the presses two minutes ago!" said County Administrator Stephanie Grove about the printed copies of the policy proposal, which she had finished writing Tuesday morning.

Within an hour, the JCC made a few amendments to the original proposal and approved it for implementation in the county.

According to Grove, a policy needed to be adopted, to address how Jefferson County would respond to the "15 Days to Slow the Spread," issued by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and President Donald Trump on Monday. The updated guidelines on how Americans should act, to decrease the number of COVID-19 cases, over the following 15 days.

"I think the concept is the right thing to do. But we can't shut down everything, as some cases have to be heard within 30 days," said JCC President Jane Tabb, mentioning the county is required to rule on certain types of cases within a 30-day period.

The JCC consulted with multiple county officials, including Sheriff Pete Dougherty, to determine the extent to which the county could reasonably comply with the guidelines.

"We will do some of the things that we would normally do," Dougherty said, mentioning the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department will be needed to be on-hand when court is in session. "We'll man the building, so if people have to come in and courts are operating, we will take care of doing that. We've already made preliminary arrangements to rearrange staffing and things like that."

However, the policy will allow all of the county employees who are able to work from home, to do so until April 1. Employees who cannot telework, but who either have the virus or are at-risk for contracting the virus, are expected to contact the supervisor, department head or elected official they are responsible to, to be excused from work.

The policy will also affect county residents in a few ways, due to its closure of the county offices to the public through April 1. County residents should mail, email or call the phone numbers for the county agencies they need to contact. Hard copies of documents for the county can be delivered via the drop box at 112 E. Washington Street. If they need to meet with a county employee in-person, they can make an appointment to do so, by calling the JCC at 304-728-3284. Most county business will be able to be conducted at www.jeffersoncountywv.org.

All county meetings have been cancelled until April 1, when the county will re-assess and determine if an extension to the closure is needed.

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