Virus closes N'West Iowa county offices

O’Brien County public health nurse administrator Judy Nieuwenhuis presents recommendations Tuesday, March 17, to the supervisors about what to do about public access to the courthouse in Primghar. The board decided to close the courthouse to unnecessary foot traffic due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

REGIONAL—The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to the lockdown of O’Brien County government offices.

The board of supervisors made the following decision Tuesday, March 17: All county offices in Primghar have been closed to the public to avoid unnecessary foot traffic, with the exception of the sheriff’s office.

All county offices inside the courthouse and the basement of the sheriff’s office will remain staffed Monday-Friday, as will the county attorney’s office in Sheldon, which also has been closed to the public except by appointment.

The clerk of court’s office inside the courthouse also will remain staffed, and all court services will be controlled by that office.

County public health nurse administrator Judy Nieuwenhuis presented recommendations to the supervisors about what to do about public access to the courthouse.

“We feel that we should lock the doors and then just have one area that we could do some screening if somebody absolutely has to come in,” she said.

Nieuwenhuis recommended people come in through the east door of the courthouse by the public health office if they have to visit the building.

“We would keep the doors locked, but then we monitor that door and screen people before they come in if we feel there’s really a necessity for them to come in,” she said.

County department leaders — such as county recorder Susan Smith — preferred members of the public not to come into the courthouse if they do not have to visit in person.

However, appointments may be set up with county offices as needed via phone calls or mail. There also are online resources available at www.obriencounty.org.

“What she would suggest is if there’s somebody that absolutely needs something — if there’s a death and they need a certificate — she would meet them at the door and give them those,” Nieuwenhuis said.

The virus had not yet been reported in N’West Iowa as of Saturday afternoon, March 21.

“We do still feel that the elderly and anyone with underlying conditions should stay at home,” Nieuwenhuis said. “Anybody that is sick should not be coming in.”

“We need to take precautions,” said supervisor Dan Friedrichsen.

Board member Nancy McDowell asked Nieuwenhuis about potential screening measures.

“Temperature, finding out if they have a cough, if they have any shortness of breath,” Nieuwenhuis said. “It really isn’t like having a sore throat. It’s really upper respiratory and fevers.”

Friedrichsen said closing the courthouse to the public is a necessary inconvenience to “control or eliminate the potential for” spreading the disease and protecting county employees if the virus shows up in N’West Iowa.

There is a drop box located inside the east door of the courthouse for people to use for county business. The drop box will be monitored and its contents will be emptied several times daily.

Nieuwenhuis mentioned her concerns about Iowa public and private schools being closed and students being at home until the middle of April.

“Keeping them at home is going to be the issue,” she said. “Just because you don’t have school doesn’t mean you’re supposed to run around and be out in the public.”


WHAT OTHER N'WEST IOWA COUNTIES ARE DOING:

Officials with Lyon, Osceola and Sioux counties have made decisions on public access to courthouses and other county buildings in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic:

Lyon County

Offices inside the courthouse and annex building as well as the conservation headquarters in Rock Rapids have been closed to the public. The only exception is the public health office located inside the annex building.

All of the closed offices will still be staffed Monday-Friday and conducting business.

The clerk of court’s office inside the courthouse also will remain staffed, and all court services will be controlled by that office.

If people have to visit any office in person, they are asked to call ahead to make an appointment.

People are encouraged to conduct county business over the phone, via mail or online at www.lyoncountyiowa.com. There also is a drop box located by the east entrance to the courthouse people may use.

Until further notice, to reduce potential exposure to the staff at the sheriff’s office, people are encouraged to not enter the building unless their visits are necessary.

If people do visit the sheriff’s office, they will be asked to wash their hands thoroughly before conducting any business with any of the staff.

For more information from the sheriff’s office, visit www.lyoncosheriff.com.

Osceola County

Offices inside the courthouse in Sibley and the conservation headquarters west of Ocheyedan have been closed to the public.

All of the closed offices will still be staffed Monday-Friday and conducting business.

The clerk of court’s office inside the courthouse also will remain staffed, and all court services will be controlled by that office.

If people have to visit any office in person, they are asked to call ahead to make an appointment.

People are encouraged to conduct county business over the phone, via mail or online at www.osceolacountyia.org. There also is a drop box located by the north entrance to the courthouse people may use.

There will be no inmate visitation and no new inmates accepted for two weeks at the sheriff’s office in Sibley. For more information from the sheriff’s office, visit www.sheriffosceolacounty.org.

Sioux County

Offices inside the courthouse as well as the nearby engineer’s office in Orange City have been closed to the public.

The treasurer’s office inside a nearby annex building also has been closed to the public, but the location has a drive-thru window and a drop box available for people to use for county business.

All of the closed offices will still be staffed Monday-Friday and conducting business.

If people have to visit any office in person, they are asked to call ahead to make an appointment.

People are encouraged to conduct county business over the phone, via mail or online at siouxcounty.org.

For people who have business with the clerk of court’s office, they may attend to such business at the courthouse should the need arise.

All people attending court are strongly encouraged to arrive promptly, transact any necessary business expediently and leave as soon as any necessary business is concluded.

The Prairie Woods Nature Center northeast of Hawarden, which is home to the conservation headquarters, also has been closed to the public.

The business office at the sheriff’s office in Orange City has been closed until further notice. In addition, items that normally require an in-person appearance at the sheriff’s office and all civil issues will be handled via phone or e-mail until further notice.

All family-inmate visits at the county jail are suspended until further notice.

For more information, visit siouxcountysheriff.com.