Essex County addresses anticipated needs

ELIZABETHTOWN - The Essex County Board of Supervisors put their stamp on a measure to prevent the spread of swine flu and sent some unified messages to the state government at their regular meeting Oct. 5.

The most heavily discussed topic was a proposed change in personnel policy that would require county employees suspected of having the H1N1 virus to stay home for a minimum of seven days.

County Attorney Dan Manning said the policy would apply to union and non-union personnel and that department heads would have the authority to decide if leave was necessary based on whether the employee had a temperature of above 100 degrees fahrenheit.

The goal, Palmer said, was to prevent other county employees from being exposed to the virus, which he fears could potentially sideline as much as half of the county's 650-person workforce.

Still, some questioned the policy and the way it guaranteed pay for employees on leave for swine flu. Even those employees who have no vacation time saved would be allotted sick days they hadn't yet earned.

"I just don't believe that we can provide a benefit to an employee for unearned time," said Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava, noting it might be met with opposition from the state comptroller. Palmer said it shouldn't be a problem.

Lewis Supervisor David Blades expressed concern that some employees might try to abuse the policy, which does not require sick employees to see a doctor.

Jay supervisor Randy Douglas asked if requiring an employee to have their temperature taken might be considered an invasion of privacy. Manning said use of a thermometer would be considered a reasonable intrusion, while requiring employees to be vaccinated for H1N1 would be considered too intrusive.

The resolution passed with both Scozzafava and Blades voting against it.

Fuel to the fire

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