The Sidney Herald received a copy of a letter sent by Richland County Health Department Administrator Brittney Petersen, MS, to local businesses. Curious what prompted the letter, we reached out to Petersen. She requested the Sidney Herald submit questions in writing. Here they are, along with Petersen’s concise answers.

Sidney Herald: What precipitated your July 20 letter to local business owners?

Brittney Petersen: The Richland County Health Department has consistently shared information and messaging for community members and businesses throughout this pandemic to increase understanding and decrease confusion around directives. The newest directive from Governor Bullock was unexpected and raised many questions from local businesses and community members. Similar information was sent to licensed establishments (i.e. restaurants, etc.) to help clarify the directive.

SH: What kind of responses have you received from recipients of the letter — positive, negative, mixed?

Petersen: We have received many requests for additional, more specific information. Many questions centered on the exceptions that are provided for in the directive, and how businesses are expected to enforce the mandate.

SH: What role does the Richland County Health Department play in enforcing Gov. Steve Bullock’s COVID-19 Directives?

Petersen: The role of Richland County Health Department is to provide education, lead by example and answer questions in response to Governor Bullock’s COVID-19 Directives. We rely on the willingness of our community to take the actions necessary to keep our community safe. The following are the actions we can all take to help keep our community healthy and decrease the spread of COVID-19:

• If you are not feeling well, particularly including symptoms of a dry cough, fever, shortness of breath, headache, and other cold-like symptoms, stay home until you feel better. This means that you do not go to work, do not attend regular activities, and cancel or postpone appointments.

• If you have been tested for COVID-19 for any reason, including preoperative testing, you must stay home until test results are received. This means that you do not go to work, do not attend regular activities, and cancel or postpone appointments.

• All residents should be practicing social distancing, including limiting the number of close contacts. This means avoiding large gatherings where social distancing is difficult. Wear a mask as required and when social distancing is difficult.

SH: What role does the Richland County Health Department play in advising the governor’s office about Richland County activities as they relate to COVID-19, such as keeping the governor’s office abreast of whether residents of Richland County are adhering to Gov. Bullock’s “recommendations” that everyone should wear facemasks if they are in public?

Petersen: The Richland County Health Department does not play a role in advising the Governor’s office about Richland County activities. We are not consulted during the process of developing the directives, nor do we receive any advance notice of the directives.

SH: Have you, or the Richland County Health Department, offered advice to local school districts about whether to hold regular classes in the fall, or whether they should all be virtual?

Petersen: We hosted a conference call with local school districts to discuss questions related to considerations and plans for the 2020/2021 school year. We did not provide a specific recommendation about whether learning should be in-person or virtual. Our discussion centered on how to keep students, teachers and staff healthy across all ages and grades.

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