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Hill County Health Board continues to help establishments safely re-open


At the weekly COVID-19 update, members of the Hill County Board of Health provided details on the last week of efforts to help businesses, primarily restaurants, re-open in the wake of Phase One of Gov. Steve Bullock’s phased re-opening plan.

Public Health Director Kim Larson said the Hill County sanitarians have spent the last week working with food establishments and restaurants, setting things up to continue meeting regulations as they re-open.

Larson said these establishments have been trying their best to stay in line with the guidelines provided by the governor’s directive and Health Department regulations, but there have been a few issues that are being addressed.

“I know there’s been a few complaints and issues that have been called in, but I believe our sanitarians are working closely with those establishments,” she said.

Hill County Attorney Karen Alley said she has been getting complaints as well.

“There have been some complaints provided to both my office, the Sanitarian’s Office and the Health Department about businesses that are maybe not in compliance with the 50 percent capacity rule, and not having patrons at the bar, so we are addressing those complaints as they come in,” she said.

According to Health Department recommendations and the governors directive establishments should not be hosting more than 50 percent of their capacity or allowing people to congregate at the bar.

Larson said she thinks these have been honest mistakes on the part of the establishments.

“It’s not that they’re not trying to abide by the rules it’s just that it’s a difficult situation and we’re all learning as we go,” she said.

Alley also said she doesn’t know of any businesses that have received more than one complaint in the last week.

Hill County Sanitarian Will Lorett said he and his fellow sanitarians have been performing regular checks on establishments to make sure regulations are being followed.

Hill County Health Officer Jessica Sheehy also provided clarification on the rules regarding the re-opening of gyms.

She said that recent recommendations refer specifically to fitness centers and not larger gymnasiums like those attached to schools, because gymnasiums are generally used to hold events like basketball games and graduations which are still against Health Department recommendations.

Larson said the only reason fitness centers can be open is because group classes are still not allowed to be held, with only members being allowed to work out there while maintaining social distancing.

Sheehy said she wanted to congratulate nurses of Hill County and beyond in honor of National Nurses Week, which started Wednesday, May 6, and ends Tuesday.

“Kudos to all the nurses out there and to those we specifically work with at the Health Department for their work and dedication,” she said.

Larson and Hill County Commissioner Mike Wendland discussed moving the COVID-19 update to an every-other-week schedule.

“There isn’t a ton that’s changing, which is really good based on some of the efforts that have already been in place in Hill County for so long,” Larson said.

Wendland agreed, saying the board could go back to a weekly meeting if things changed.

“We’re still flexible,” he said, “If we see a resurgence of virus activity, we can certainly come back to the every-week schedule.”

The next COVID-19 update will be held May 22.


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