Ingham Co. braces for outbreak; COVID-19 cases near 3,700

Chairman: ‘It’s all day-by-day, minute-by-minute, but we’re prepared’ 

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FRIDAY, March 27 — Ingham County has set up a $50,000 contingency fund, extended paid sick leave for hundreds of employees and ramped up salaries for many at Ingham Community Health Centers as the number of cases of COVID-19 rises to nearly 3,700 in Michigan. 

State data released today shows that at least 26 of those cases were identified in Ingham County. And after the state tracked its first coronavirus-related death today near Greater Lansing, the county’s Board of Commissioners is bracing for the worst as the virus spreads. 

At a remote meeting earlier this week, commissioners voted unanimously to implement a policy that grants employees up to 120 hours of paid time off — separate from sick time or vacation days — to care for themselves or their family during the coronavirus pandemic.  

“We knew this was coming and some employees would possibly need some time off,” said County Board Chairman Bryan Crenshaw. “We didn’t want them to use their sick time, so we passed this policy for some extra flexibility for our employees. We knew they would need it.” 

County employees are eligible for additional time off if they’re not feeling well or need extra time off because of closures at schools, daycares, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Approval for time off is still subject to some conditions and approval of department managers. 

Additionally, the board set up a $50,000 emergency fund to offset unexpected county costs associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Crenshaw said it could be used for things like laptops for employees working remotely or basic cleaning supplies at some county facilities. 

“Obviously, we are just facing an unprecedented health crisis right now,” added Commissioner Ryan Sebolt. “This was really more of a proactive measure and we wanted to remove any sort of hesitation that someone might have about not getting paid during this necessary time off.” 

Commissioners also unanimously accepted salary increases for several critical provider positions at the Ingham Community Health Centers to both further support staff during the pandemic and to help reduce turnover at typically lower paying, government-funded jobs. 

The recently approved pay jump — a new expense of $436,733 annually for the county— is entirely funded through unspent salaries for vacant positions and includes raises for administrators, jail medical providers, nurse practitioners and other medical positions. 

“Those raises weren’t necessarily related to COVID-19 but we expect they’ll be working twice as hard, so it’s timely,” Crenshaw added. “It’s all day-by-day, minute-by-minute, but we’re prepared. If we see something pressing, we’ll react, respond and move forward accordingly.” 

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