The costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic at all levels seems to be on an upward spiral and that is true in Grayson County as well.
GC Judge Bill Magers Tuesday said opening back up after the shutdown that happened in March is proving to be a complicated matter.
“As we are opening up,” Magers said, “we are seeing our costs increase.”
In past meetings, Magers has stressed that the county never actually shut down, but it dud change the way some functions were performed and opening some of those functions back up will be expensive because precautions will have to be built in to protect from or at least limit people’s exposure to COVID-19.
Once such function, he said, is the courts system. Just how and when the courts were to re open to live hearings is not simply a matter for local judges and the commissioners to decide, Magers said. They are having to follow rules laid out by Office of Court Administration which he said, is basically the enforcement arm of the United States Supreme Court.
The OCA has ruled, Mages said, that the courts should open back up to live proceedings on June 1. But to do so, it also ruled that people’s temperatures must be checked when they enter the buildings where those courts are housed, In Grayson County, that will be the Grayson County Justice Center where the county’s two courts-at-law and three district courts are housed. In addition, he said, the OCA has determined that people must wear face coverings while they are in the Justice Center.
The county, Magers said, will have to provide those supplies because, for many people, going to the Justice Center is not a matter of personal choice. They are summoned there either as grand jurors, jurors, witnesses or participants in some sort of matter happening before the courts.
Magers said before COVID-19, about 600 people a week day entered the Grayson County Justice Center. He said there is no way really to tell if that was 600 individual people or if it was three hundred people who came in in the morning and then came back in at lunch, but it was 600 entrants a day.
“Two hundred and fifty work days a year,” he said times those 600 people times $2 per mask, and the county could easily be looking at $600,000 a year for masks alone. And no one knows how long this will continue.
He said in addition to that the county has had other expenses. Those include gloves, hand sanitizer, and other items that come to about $50,000 a month so far.
"So you add those all together and it is around $1.2 million" he said. He reminded commissioners that in a previous meeting they had heard that the county would be getting around $2.2 million for COVID-19 relief.
"That doesn't include the plexiglass that is being installed throughout the county both in the courthouse and in other office buildings. I don't know what those costs will be at this point," he said.
"As this thing continues to unwind, we are going to incur some additional costs," he added. With that information in hand, the commissioners voted to extend the medical emergency declaration that the county has been operating under since March in an effort to help the county recoup any expenses it possibly can from the pandemic.