BUCKHANNON — During last Thursday evening’s City Council meeting, City Attorney Tom O'Neill presented a new employee policy regarding COVID-19 testing and mask utilization, which they voted unanimously to adopt.
The policy states, “Employees in the following circumstances must undergo a COVID-19 test for the active virus, and test negative, prior to returning to work. 1. Any employee whose work is interrupted due to contracting the COVID-19 virus or being exposed or potentially exposed to the virus (meaning, the employee is mandated to either work from home, isolate, or quarantine themselves). Any employee who tests positive for COVID-19 must then test negative twice (the two tests administered 72 hours apart) prior to returning to work. 2. Any employee who is directly exposed to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. 3. Department supervisors may require employees in their departments to undertake a test.
“Employees must notify their supervisor if they leave the state. Any employee who is away from work for more than three (3) days (except Saturdays, Sundays or Holidays) must test negative for the active virus prior to returning to work, and must wear a mask or face covering for three (3) days after returning to work.”
Affected employees will receive an Employee Certification to complete during the time they are ordered to stay at home, which they must complete before returning to work.
The new policy also explained that the City of Buckhannon has partnered with St. Joseph’s Hospital to cover the cost of a required COVID-19 test for city employees. City employees are told to contact Dr. Robert Romano’s office to schedule a test. Employees who choose another healthcare provider for a test will have to cover the cost of it themselves.
The employees will need to turn in test results to Amby Jenkins and the results will be kept strictly confidential. The policy also states, “Employees who have been directly exposed to an individual who 1. Tested positive for COVID-19 or 2. Has been subject to an isolation or quarantine order shall wear a face mask or other approved face coverings while at work, when in proximity to others, for a period of 14 days.”
The new policy also addresses non-compliance by warning, “Failure to abide by these policies may result in employment discipline… Employees who refuse testing or refuse to adhere to other COVID-19 related city policies in effect will not be permitted to work.”
Mayor Robbie Skinner shared his thoughts during the meeting. “I think it’s excellent. I think we’re being proactive… All our departments are small but do very important work and need to be protected as much as possible,” Skinner said.
According to Jenkins, employees were made aware of the policy before it was adopted and 99 percent have agreed in order to protect the employees and their families. “All reports are that this is a very gruesome way to go and we want to do everything possible to prevent that,” O'Neill said.