To limit the spread of COVID-19, the Hardin County Board of Supervisors agreed Wednesday morning to close the county courthouse, county office building and all offices to the public as of noon on Wednesday, March 18.
The board moved its regular weekly meeting to the Hardin County Emergency Operations Center, where the supervisors received input from county department heads and other county officials.
Despite the closure to the public, county employees will continue to provide essential services by appointment. The supervisors requested that business be conducted through phone calls, email or mail.
For in-person appointments, the public is asked to call 641-939-8108. In the event a member of the public visits a county building without an appointment, there may be delays.
Citizens are asked to contact the appropriate county departments by phone regarding services or questions.
The public can find department phones numbers on the county's website here.
"We are not the first (county) to talk about this. There's quite a few that have already closed," said board chairman Lance Granzow. "After reading emails (from department heads) I think we should close the courthouse to the public and stop everyone at the entrance there."
Carey Callaway - a member of Quaker Security - said she agreed with the county's decision, but emphasized the need to be clear about who would be let into the building and who would not.
"If my guard lets someone in and someone else not in, we open ourselves up to profiling. Unless there is an exact protocol for who gets in and who doesn’t, you have to do it for everyone," Callaway said.
For now, calling ahead is the only way citizens will know if they'll be allowed in the building.
Hardin County Treasurer Machel Eichmeier said the public can do the majority of their business with her either online or via mail.
Hardin County Recorder Lori Kadner said she preferred to work with customers via electronic process to make it as safe as possible for her office as well as the public.
"There's nothing that we handle that couldn't be handled by email or regular mail," Hardin County Auditor Jessica Lara said.
Thomas Craighton, the county's emergency management coordinator, reminded those in attendance that on Tuesday Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency, effective March 17-31. That means events of 10 or more people are prohibited and planned large gatherings must be canceled.
"Bars, restaurants and everything with anything over 10 people," Craighton said. "We need to do Zoom (video conferencing) meetings in the future because we can't meet this way. It's the governor's law. Restaurants found out of compliance and still serving people inside the restaurant or inside the bar will receive a warning. And it is a misdemeanor under Iowa Code."
Craighton said he could not emphasize enough the importance of social distancing - making sure to leave space between people - to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.