All offices within the Greene County Courthouse Annex will be closed beginning Monday to allow the building to be cleaned and disinfected due to the spread of COVID-19.
Individuals needing to conduct business with one of the offices is asked to do so temporarily by mail or online, according to Greene County Mayor Kevin Morrison.
The Annex will reopen after the environmental cleaning and disinfecting is finished inside the entire building, and a public announcement will be made about the reopening.
“This brief interruption to services is undertaken to safeguard members of the public utilizing our services, protect our employees and avoid longer interruptions,” Morrison said.
Until the offices are reopened, employees in the offices within the Annex will be working remotely as possible under the direction of their department and will be notified when they can return to their workspaces within the Annex, the mayor said.
The offices inside the Annex include the County Court Clerk, the Trustee, Register of Deeds, Property Assessor, U.T. Extension Service, the County Medical Clinic, Budgets and Accounts, Purchasing, Legal and Human Resources.
Disruption to tag and license renewals should be brief for those needing in-person services, according to the mayor. General Sessions Court has confirmed that late license and tag registration renewals will be given reasonable discretion for payment and renewal, he added.
Employees needing refilled medications through the Health Clinic should contact OCC Med on Coolidge Street for instructions about refills, and offices needing purchase orders are asked to make requests by phone or online, Morrison said.
In addition to the Annex offices, an environmental cleaning will also be conducted in Chancery Court and the Clerk and Master office within the Greene County Courthouse, he said. The Clerk and Master office closed to the public last week due to the number of employees who had contracted the virus.
The offices of Chancellor and Clerk and Master will consult to provide the public further guidance on adjusted docket, operating hours or closure, Morrison said.
The mayor noted the Tennessee Supreme Court has limited all in-person court appearances for January.
The need for the cleaning and disinfecting comes from the large number of employees in the Annex and in the Greene County Courthouse who have contracted COVID-19, the mayor said.
While community spread is so intense currently, it is impossible to know when, where and how the employees were exposed to the virus, but it makes the cleaning necessary, Morrison said.
“Most likely, with the nearly incessant foot traffic in and out and around the annex and courthouse, there has been a near constant presence of COVID-19 in and near our workspaces for several weeks despite our best efforts to clean, sanitize, wear masks, and avoid infection,” he said. “In addition, travel, gatherings and increased activities related to the Thanksgiving holiday four to six weeks ago created a supercharged vehicle for spreading COVID that materialized locally in record cases, hospitalizations and increased deaths across Northeast Tennessee and in Greene County at the middle of December.
“This has resulted in more and more of our employees becoming exposed and facing sickness, and department heads managing dwindling staff to provide services,” Morrison continued. “In response to this, we reimplemented rotational/contingency staffing on Dec. 11 to attempt to safeguard the public, our employees and continue to provide services albeit on a somewhat reduced scale. It is clear this is not enough as more sporadic outbreaks continue and force more lengthy closures.”
In addition to the Clerk and Master’s office, the Greene County Clerk’s Office closed twice in December due to the number of employees with the virus. The Property Assessor’s office was closed early in the month due to an employee testing positive.