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County reopens offices to the public Monday

Beaufort County will reopen its offices to the public, prompted by the phased reopening of businesses across the state.

Starting Monday at 8 a.m., county offices will reopen public-facing areas for customers. Modifications have been put in place to keep the public and county staff safe during transactions, including glass or plexiglass barriers, social-distancing floor markings and customer line designations to help maintain social distancing in places such as the Financial Services Building and the Tax Office, according to a press release from county government. Hand-sanitizing stations will also be provided, it states.

“We’re going by the rules the state has put in place, just like retail businesses are required to do,” said Brian Alligood, Beaufort County manager.

The public is also encouraged to continue using services such as the drive-thru window at the Financial Services Building or the Tax Office drop box to make payments, or communicate with county staff via the phone or electronically, if they do not feel comfortable with in-person visits.

The county closed its offices down to the public on March 24, in an attempt to protect residents and county staffers from exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Nearly two months later, they’re ready to get back to business, but with safety in mind. Alligood said Beaufort County Health Department Director Jim Madson and others worked with the county to ensure proper measures are taken at each office.

“The health group is comfortable with it,” Alligood said.  “When we first started (dealing with COVID-19), we didn’t have protections in place — we do now.”

The press release from the county further encourages the state’s 3W plan: Wear a cloth face covering; Wait 6 feet apart; Wash hands often or use hand sanitizer.

“What we do want people to do is respect those social distancing guidelines (at each office). Those markers are there for a reason, the plastic chains, the lines — those things are there for a reason, and we’d ask people to respect that for their safety and others’ safety,” Alligood said.

Due to staff shortages, the Betsy Bailey Nelson Animal Control Facility will continue to make appointments for visitors, rather than reopen to the public at this time.