REED CITY -- The Osceola County Board of Commissioners voted to close the courthouse to the public and suspend all nonessential services until April 21, at its meeting Tuesday.

Osceola County Emergency Management Program Director Mark Watkins told the board that, at the recommendation of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, he declared a local state of emergency for Osceola County on Friday, March 13.

Because of that, he said, he recommended the board close the courthouse building to the public and limit or cancel any public meetings for the time being.

"The biggest thing right now is to limit exposure," Watkins said to people in attendance, who were keeping a distance away from each other to avoid spreading germs. "Containment is everything, and any public meeting risks exposure and spread of the virus. We really want to try to lock this thing down."

As part of the closure, all county offices will be closed with the exception of essential services, and all nonessential employees will be ask to stay home during the closure. Department heads will determine what employees will remain on staff to perform essential duties, the board said.

In addition, the board approved a motion to continue to pay employees that are asked to stay home at their normal base pay rate during the closure.

The board canceled the April 7 BOC meeting, and will plan to meet again April 21.

Justin Halladay, director of Osceola County Commission on Aging, reported to the board that his office has suspended all congregate meal site meals for three weeks.

The COA will continue to provide home delivery of meals, and pick up will be available at the meal sites for those who call ahead and request it.

"We will be focused on creating meals and getting them to seniors," Halladay said. "We will be taking the necessary precautions to protect our staff and our seniors, however."

Hallday said the staff will be calling seniors at home to check on them daily, but in-home visits will be limited. When necessary, staff members will wear gloves and follow the distance recommendations as much as possible.

Any seniors that are concerned about getting the meals they need are encouraged to call the COA office at (231) 743-5559. For continued updates visit the Osceola County COA Facebook page.