Coronavirus: Palm Beach County to Screen Employee Temperatures
Palm Beach County employees and contractors will have to be screened before gaining entry to county buildings, starting June 1.
Employees and contractors entering all Palm Beach County government buildings must first have their temperature taken and answer health-related questions.
That won’t apply to the general public, though.
The mandate begins Monday, more than two months after a similar protocol was put in place at the county’s Emergency Operations Center on South Military Trail, where key officials gather daily to receive updates and make pandemic-response decisions.
“This screening is intended to identify employees and contractors showing fever, which is one of several common symptoms associated with COVID-19 illness. At no time should temperatures of the public be taken,” read a memo sent Friday by Risk Management Director Scott Marting to the county’s 6,000 employees.
It was not immediately clear why the public would not be screened. County Administrator Verdenia Baker could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning.
Since the beginning of March, 34 county employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, and another 67 were potentially exposed by those employees. More than 560 employees were placed on administrative leave.
Temperature screening does not catch virus-carriers who aren’t suffering symptoms of the deadly disease, a point made in the memo.
Traffic to the building in West Palm Beach dropped significantly in March when the tax collector’s first-floor office closed. The tax collector announced the expansion of its appointment-only services also beginning Monday, where customers are required to wear masks.
The county has limited the number of people attending county commission meetings to assure two seats between visitors. But the county does not require people at these meetings to wear masks.
Employees and county contractors who are allowed in will get a color-coded wristband. Contractors are defined as vendors or contracted employees who are conducting business for the county.
Employees who don’t pass the screening will be put on paid administrative leave, or will have to use sick leave, until they’re cleared to come back to work.
The use of paid time off was a point of concern for healthy employees who wanted to work from home, having no recourse but to use sick or vacation time if they wanted to stay out of the office. In April, the county allowed employees 65 and older and those with underlying medical conditions to work from home. Where possible, teleworking will continue to be available for all county employees, a spokeswoman said.
Employees also must wear facial coverings if they can’t stay more than six feet from others, and will be encouraged to frequently wash or sanitize their hands.
Department supervisors will be in charge of making sure temperatures are taken every day.
The county may be enforcing this new procedure for months, if not longer, a fact indicated in a memo sent to department heads, which said the cost to hire a contractor to screen employees would be “too great to allow for the sustainability of the program long term (30-60 days) due to the large number of physical locations that would need coverage.”
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