BELLEFONTE — Centre County Government had planned to have some of its employees start to return to offices beginning next week. However, due to an uptick of COVID-19 cases in the county, those plans are on hold.
At Tuesday’s Centre County Commissioners’ meeting, the commissioners approved extending full remote work for another two weeks. Full remote status was expected to end on Friday, April 2.
“When this date was determined several weeks ago, it was our intent and our hope that as we watched the measures around COVID-19 and COVID-19 mitigation that these measures would stabilize and we could further recommend moving to a scenario where we had a full open rotation model,” said county administrator Margaret Gray.
But the the recent COVID-19 numbers changed things, she said.
“Unfortunately, the indicators that we typically follow, such as number of positive cases, hospitalizations … it appears the numbers haven’t gone down. In fact, they’re trending up in the month of March,” Gray said.
The weekend was especially hard on Centre County. Over the course of Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Centre County reported 214 COVID-19 cases. There were 116 new cases on Saturday, 53 on Sunday and 45 on Monday. Saturday’s total was the highest the county has seen since Jan. 31.
A total of 213 Centre County residents have died as a result of COVID-19.
The commissioners unanimously approved extending full remote work status until Friday, April 16. It will be up for discussion again at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, April 13.
“The next two weeks ought to tell us which way we’re going to go … if this is just a blip or if this is something that has a trend upward. I think that giving everything we’re seeing here, especially in the last couple of days … I think it would be prudent to consider a two-week extension,” Gray said.
The commissioners agreed with the assessment.
“Seems prudent at this time,” said commissioner Mark Higgins.
Commissioner Steve Dershem said that the extension made perfect sense.
“The problem is, we continue to see almost a wave after wave of coronavirus. Unfortunately, when one person in an office gets it, it impacts an entire operation and oftentimes it can shut an office almost completely down as we have seen numerous times. We have to be prudent, we have to be responsible. I also want to emphasize that those measures that we have already employed, masking and social distancing … it’s important that we maintain vigilance right now,” Dershem said.
He also urged Centre County residents to get vaccinated when it is their turn.
“Please do so at the earliest convenience that you can find,” Dershem said.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:
— Adopted proclamation No. 5 of 2021, which proclaims the month of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
— Approved a contract extension with Community Integrations, LLC to provide transportation services under the Medical Assistance Transportation Program (MATP) outside of Centre County and on holidays as requested. The extension is for the period of April 5, 2021 through April 4, 2026 at the following rates: $60 minimum fee for trips 40 miles and less, $2.55 per loaded mile single rate, $2.80 per loaded mile group rate with an annual rate increase of five cents per mile.
— Approved fiscal year 2020-2021 Transit Funding Consolidated Capital grant award, which will provide complete funding for eight new paratransit vehicles for the shared ride service. The total award is $640,000, which is funded as follows: Federal $480,000 and state $160,000.
— Approved resolution No. 6 of 2021, authorizing the sale of surplus county property by online auction sale.
— Approved a contract with IronPlanet, Inc., and Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers Inc., to offer and sell county surplus vehicles online through GovPlanet. Auction revenue will be shared with 85 percent received by the County and 15 percent retained by the company.
Those items were moved to next week’s consent agenda.
The commissioners will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 6. The meeting will be held via Zoom and televised live by C-NET.