JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. — The Johnson County, Kansas Sheriff said he will not be going by a new COVID-19 policy for Johnson County employees. However, he doesn’t have to.
Johnson County will begin requiring weekly COVID-19 testing for county employees beginning next week.
Johnson County said it will implement the new testing requirement in an effort to keep employees safe as the number of COVID-19 cases, fueled by the Delta variant, increased across the county.
Tuesday, Sheriff Calvin Hayden said the department will have their own policy that does not require vaccinations or testing. While the sheriff’s department is confident about this policy, other county leaders believe weekly testing would help protect the citizens of Johnson County.
“He feels that the men and women that work here at the Sheriff’s Office are intelligent and they know what’s best for them and their families,” Sgt. Jesse Valdez with the sheriff’s department said.
County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson said in a statement they would give the department tests as they request them.
“The County Manager’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office have had conversations about our employee COVID-19 mitigation plan. The Sheriff’s Office is not required to comply, and the plan specifically notes the office is not included,” Ferguson said.
Valdez said if an employee feels they are sick or may have been exposed they can test as needed. Janeé Hanzlick, Johnson County Commissioner for the 4th District, says the decision by the sheriff not to participate is concerning.
“I applaud and support the county manager’s decision to do that, by requiring those tests or vaccination. I think it’s unfortunate that the sheriff has chosen not to follow that. Again, because so many people have no choice but to interact with the sheriff’s department. And I know there are people who are worried about their risk of exposure, if they have to interact with the sheriff’s department,” Hanzlick said.
Valdez said 50% of the department is vaccinated, and more than 20% of employees have tested positive for COVID since the beginning of the pandemic — including Hayden himself.
“The sheriff is leaving it up to each individual employee, what’s best for them. Also, what’s best for their family. The sheriff doesn’t know what an individual’s health is or underlying health circumstances in that regard, religion as well. Again, the sheriff is relying on the intelligence of each employee to make that decision for themselves and their family,” Valdez said.
FOX4 asked the department if there were a federal or state mandate in the future would the department abide by it but they were unable to answer the question.