Extension offices reopening based on infection rates

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service announced plans to reopen its county offices during a recent town hall meeting led by director Thomas Dobbins. The plan calls for all Clemson Extension employees to be tested for COVID-19 and for county offices to be reopened based on weekly infection rates in each county as reported by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. “Clemson Extension is in the business of imparting science-based information to the citizens of South Carolina, and science will determine our decisions on reopening offices. Our No. 1 priority is to keep our clients and staff safe and healthy,” Dobbins emphasized. Clemson Extension closed all 46 county offices on March 18 and agents were instructed to visit clients only on an as-needed basis and with supervisor approval. In-person visits followed all protocols set by public health officials, including social distancing and mask wearing. The modified operations also included virtual meetings and program delivery. “By all accounts, our agents and staff have done an excellent job keeping our clients safe while also fulfilling our Extension mission. We were forced to create some innovative solutions for delivering our programs. Some of those solutions will continue but we are also excited to meet our clients in person when we can do that safely,” Dobbins said. Offices will reopen in stages based on SCDHEC county-by-county data on two-week cumulative incidence rate, trend in incidence rate and two-week percent positive rate: High Disease Activity Level: Office will remain closed to staff, public and volunteers. Medium Disease Activity Level: Office will remain closed to public and volunteers; no in-person office meetings or program hosting; office will be staffed on a staggered rotation. Low Disease Activity Level: Office will reopen to the public with some constraints. “Extension personnel have not stopped serving the citizens of South Carolina since we began modified operations back in March,” Dobbins said. “Our impact data shows that we have done an outstanding job of staying connected to our stakeholders to continue delivering vital information and education.” Since the office closings, Clemson Extension Agents have been engaging with the public through an array of digital platforms and providing valuable resources. Extension’s COVID-19 website features programming and fact sheets related to the novel coronavirus, along with resources aimed at helping South Carolinians and the state’s agribusinesses cope with the crisis. The website includes agribusiness COVID-19 rapid response and resource guides, information on consumer food safety and farm food safety and tips for cleaning and disinfecting households, among other information.

Author: Stephan Drew

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