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County to define ‘essential employees,’ provide emergency leave

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — During a special meeting on Monday, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners took steps to define the county’s essential employees and voted to provide full- and part-time government employees with emergency paid sick leave and emergency paid family leave amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the meeting, held via telephone, the board specifically authorized county manager Aaron Church to define an “essential government employee,” which is required by North Carolina Executive Order 121 that Gov. Roy Cooper implemented on March 27. All full-time and part-time county employees are considered essential employees at this time, but Church said that designation is subject to change if needed.

Church added that all county government and services remain open at this time, but operations may look different.

As of Tuesday, the Rowan Public Library operations are limited to curbside service only. Computer labs are now closed to the public. All three branches — headquarters in Salisbury, East Branch in Rockwell and South Branch in China Grove — continue to offer curbside service Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Library facilities are closed to the public.

Citizens looking to conduct in-person services at 402 N. Main St. — including the county Register of Deeds, Environmental Health, Tax Assessor’s Office, Tax Collector’s Office, Planning and Development and Building Inspections departments — will be met by staff outside in the parking lot as an extra measure of safety. Additionally, the Rowan County Register of Deeds is implementing changes that include suspension of passport services and Thank-A-Vet discount card issuance for 30 days, and both notary oath and marriage licenses are by appointment only.

The animal shelter is mandating appointment-only adoptions and surrenders of stray animals. The volunteer program is currently suspended until further notice, and dogs currently housed in the shelter will be moved into foster homes within the county.

For more information on each department’s changes, visit the county government website at rowancountync.gov, click on the COVID-19 banner at the top and click on “Rowan County Departmental Operations Changes (PDF).”

Church said social distancing measures and the required mass gathering of no more than 10 individuals in one space are being enforced for county departments. According to the executive order, social distancing requirements include maintaining a distance of 6 feet away from other individuals, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as often as possible or using hand sanitizer, regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces and facilitating online or remote access by customers if possible.

Church said the county is encouraging citizens to call county departments or email them to discuss their needs before visiting the governmental offices. If a visit is required, the county asks all citizens to maintain social distancing requirements.

Effective April 1, both emergency paid sick and emergency paid family leave related to COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus, are required by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act until Dec. 31. The law responds to the COVID-19 outbreak by providing paid sick leave, tax credits, and free COVID-19 testing, as well as expanding food assistance and unemployment benefits and increasing Medicaid funding.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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