County plans reopening: Commissioners approve more part-time hiring

Brian Winters, owner of Gainesville Glass Co. Inc., measures frames for protective glass shields Friday, May 8, at the Cooke County Tax Assessor-Collector Office in downtown Gainesville. The shields are being put in at county offices to protect the public and county employees amid the coronavirus pandemic. The county is set to reopen offices for walk-ins Monday, May 18.

As county offices prepare to become more accessible to the public following coronavirus-related restrictions, members of the Cooke County Commissioners’ Court have unanimously agreed to hire additional part-time personnel.

The vote Monday, May 11, inside the Commissioners’ Courtroom at the Cooke County Courthouse in downtown Gainesville, followed a brief closed-door discussion. It was not clear how many additional temporary employees would be hired.

The part-timers would take temperatures of anyone entering county facilities. Currently, courthouse security is taking visitor and employee temperatures. However, once the courthouse begins to become more accessible and functioning, security personnel will have to go back to their regular duties, Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley said.

County offices could be open to walk-ins again Monday, May 18. Since March 26, county offices have been accessible to the public by appointment only. Some county offices could still require appointments, Brinkley explained, saying department heads make their own decisions.

“We are still trying to put procedures in place for each department,” Brinkley said.

The public will only be required to have their temperature taken when visiting county facilities, according to Brinkley. No additional measures, such as having to wear a face mask, will be mandated, he said.

During an emergency-called meeting of the court April 29, commissioners approved spending about $13,500 in security enhancements to put up permanent glass fixtures around some of the county offices that have high pedestrian traffic to help protect employees and the public, according to a previous report in the Register.

Monday afternoon wasn’t the first time commissioners agreed to hire additional personnel to help with handling coronavirus-related issues.

On April 20, all five members of the court approved hiring five part-timers to help with non-medical related tasks at a coronavirus testing site behind North Texas Medical Center, 1900 Hospital Blvd.

Brinkley said Monday afternoon that those part-timers have been hired and that the county “will likely utilize them to the extent possible for temperatures.”

The county could be reimbursed 75% of the cost related to part-time employees hired specifically to help during the coronavirus pandemic through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, officials said.

Elizabeth Huchton, the county’s human resource director, said Friday, May 1, that the county had 264 full-time and 24 part-time employees.

COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. It first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.

Cooke County has two active positive cases of coronavirus and nine recovered, the Cooke County COVID-19 Joint Information Center announced Monday. No fatalities have been recorded among Cooke County residents.

According to the JIC, 391 county residents have been tested for the virus as of noon Monday. Of those, 365 are negative and 15 are pending results. It takes two to three days for test results to come back after lab specimens are sent.

County statistics include residents of Cooke County only. Two health care workers who are employed in Cooke County but don’t reside here had tested positive earlier for the new coronavirus, the Register previously reported. Results from Cooke County residents tested in other counties aren’t reported to Cooke County unless a positive result comes back.

Follow the Gainesville Daily Register online for updates as the situation surrounding the new coronavirus is developing.

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