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Health Department Asks For Officials, County Board Cooperation During Coronavirus Pandemic

By Leah Williams

Health Department Administrator Elizabeth Lehde called for cooperation during the Washington County Board meeting, held virtually on Tuesday, August 11.

Lehde said during the past six weeks, Washington County has risen in the number of lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus. She said a few days before Phase Four was implemented, Washington County reported 20 cases. In six weeks, the number of positive cases has increased to 68 as of Tuesday, the date of the meeting, and to 78 as of print time on Monday, August 17.

“Despite the low number of cases and the high recovery rate, the county is not immune to the rapid or severe illness,” Lehde said. “The process of reducing infection so far has been on public health.”

While the focus has been on educating the public about isolation, safe practices and other measures of awareness, Lehde said the health department is needing help in filling in the gaps, including governmental officials. The community, she said, “has done a great job but there is still a lot of work to do.

Lehde said she is in hopes that public officials like county board members would help encourage safety measures that “make sure that our county is safe.”

“I understand and respect personal opinions surrounding the recommendations but please consider that each representative sitting on the county board was elected to represent their entire district of constituents,” she said. “And I do ask that you support your public health recommendations, mandates and guidelines moving forward during this public health emergency to protect our citizens of Washington County.”

County EMA Administrator Matt Bierman also reported to the county board that his office is continuing to keep up with restrictions handed down by the state government and keeping enough personal protection equipment on hand for when the projected second round of coronavirus hits this fall.

In other county board news, the board approved the construction of a bridge on County Highway 5, in the amount of $43,000. County Highway Engineer Kiefer Hieman said the bridge will close once work will begin on Aug. 24, and it will continue until the work is completed in October, depending on the weather.

The Surface Transportation fund will pay for 80 percent of the construction costs.

The board also learned that work on the jail is set to begin in the next couple of weeks.

The county’s Hyper Reach program, which was approved during the July meeting, is set to become active this week.

The board approved three zoning permits. The first was to Richard Bathon for a mobile home to replace another mobile home. The second was to Zach Brandt to rezone three acres from agriculture to rural residential to build a house, and the third was to Darlene Eggemann to rezone three acres from agriculture to rural residential to build a house.

The next county board meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 8.

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