Johnson County Board of Supervisors, Board of Public Health discuss local response to COVID-19

Following a recommendation from County Attorney Janet Lyness, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors and the Johnson County Board of Health held a joint meeting to talk about the county’s past and future response to COVID-19.


Johnson County Board of Supervisors Chairperson Rod Sullivan provides closing comments for the public hearing on a proposed property tax levy. The public hearing occurred in the second floor boardroom of the Johnson County Administrative Building on Monday, Mar. 9, 2020 at 5:30 p.m and no one from the public offered a comment for the hearing.

Riley Davis, News Reporter

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors held a telephonic meeting with three members of the Johnson County Board of Health Tuesday to discuss the county’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and the board’s letter to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds concerning authority for a shelter-in-place order.

County Attorney Janet Lyness said the board of supervisors does not currently have the authority to issue a shelter-in-place order of its own. Instead, the board approved a letter to Reynolds Monday, asking her to either give it authority to issue an order when necessary or to issue her own for the entire state.

“I’m not very hopeful that the governor would approve any kind of request we would make,” Chairman Supervisor Rod Sullivan said. “So, frankly [the board] hasn’t spent a whole lot of time talking about exactly what [a shelter-in-place order] would look like [in the county] because I honestly don’t think it’s going to happen.”

If Reynolds approved the board’s request for a shelter-in-place order, Sullivan said, it would look at the ordinance specifications in other states to decide what the county would need to do based on those existing frameworks.

Johnson County Board of Health member Bonnie Rubin said she anticipates Reynolds would have recommendations for how to implement a shelter-in-place order if it were to be issued.

Related: Johnson County Board of Supervisors asks Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for a shelter-in-place order

The boards also brought up concerns about the public not following social-distancing guidelines. Rubin and Johnson County Supervisor Royceann Porter voiced their thoughts on parents who allow their children outside without considering how it could affect community members who are immunocompromised, or that the children could become carriers for the virus.

“My impression is that a lot of people are considering social distancing an ‘adult activity’ and parents aren’t thinking about how [the virus can spread],” Rubin said. “Non-medical and non-healthcare [people], or anyone who’s not involved, they really don’t have any understanding of how these things happen and spread. So, there has to be more heavy duty messaging.”

Johnson County Public Health Director Dave Koch said there are still reports everyday of people being outside without valid reason or not standing the recommended six feet apart in grocery stores.

The topic sparked additional concern over the county’s ability to enforce a shelter-in-place order if one were to be issued, given it’s already been difficult to make the public take social distancing seriously.

“One of the concerns that law enforcement expressed was that they would be responding to calls from the public to check out people who may be violating the ordinance which would bring them into more contact with people [that may] not necessarily be violating it,” Lyness said. “The other part of the shelter-in-place order that was a concern … was that [there are] so many exceptions in place for [people] who work in the food industry or work in medical or public safety, and trying to enforce it would be a challenge.”