By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
EL RENO – The Canadian County Assessor’s Office is temporarily closed to walk-in traffic and employees are working from home due to COVID-19.
Several assessor’s office employees recently tested positive for the coronavirus and the office has physically closed as a last resort, officials said.
“This has happened despite our best efforts,” Canadian County Assessor Matt Wehmuller said Monday morning. “Up until this, we’ve been alternating some staff in the office and some staff working remotely … we’ve strongly encouraged the wearing of masks and social distancing.
“We were cleaning surfaces regularly. We’ve really tried hard.”
Canadian County maintenance personnel have been sanitizing the Canadian County Assessor’s Office, 200 N Choctaw.
“We’ve closed temporarily and will continue to do extra cleaning of everything – doorknobs, common areas, the breakroom, and restrooms,” Canadian County Commission Chairman Marc Hader announced.
The Canadian County Assessor’s Office occupies a building across the street from other Canadian County government offices.
All assessor’s employees will work remotely as their office receives the deep cleaning.
“We’re in a big enough building that we’ve been able to social distance,” Wehmuller explained. “I know we’re not alone; other businesses and families and facing this. It’s just the reality of the situation.”
The Canadian County Assessor Office has a drop box for the public in the lobby of the Canadian County Administration Building, 201 N Choctaw.
“We’re temporarily closed to visitors in our office,” Wehmuller said. “We’re still answering phone calls and we still have a table across the street.
“We’re doing the best we can to continue to serve the public. It’s just going to be a temporary closure for walk-in traffic to give us an opportunity to clean, wipe down every surface we can and make sure all parties are protected to the best of our ability.”
There are no immediate plans to close either the Canadian County Administration Building or the Canadian County Courthouse across the street.
“Because (the assessor’s personnel) are somewhat secluded from the rest of our operations, I hate to jump to big conclusions about what we should do with the rest of our buildings,” Chairman Hader said.
“Instead of us saying ‘all of Canadian County is all shut down’, we do have some separation by proximity. We’ll monitor this closely.”
An employee at the Canadian County District 3 shop also has tested positive for the virus and is being quarantined, District 3 Commissioner Jack Stewart said Monday.
The shop personnel will work staggered shifts and avoid being in close contact, according to Stewart.
Canadian County Emergency Manager Andrew Skidmore reminded county employees about Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to stay a safe distance away from others to help reduce the virus spread.
“The CDC’s definition for ‘close contact’ to a person with COVID-19 is being within 6 feet for at least a period of 10 minutes to 30 minutes or more, depending on the exposure,” Skidmore explained.
Assistant District Attorney Tommy Humphries told commissioners that the county’s elected officers can require employees to wear masks and offer COVID-19 testing.
“I don’t think we can mandate an employee to take a test,” Humphries added. “If we thought that there was an exposure and then we offered a test, then yes we can quarantine them.”