Members of the Knox County Board of Health on Wednesday voted to make minor changes to some of the health department's public policies.
After a local physician recently raised concerns about children being turned away from getting required vaccinations due to low-grade fevers, county health officer Dr. Alan Stewart implemented a new policy, one reflected by standards set forth by the Centers for Disease Control in terms of what now constitutes fever.
An official fever for children, according to CDC standards, is now 100.4 degrees, which was pointed out by the local physician.
Stewart said his nurses didn't recall any instances where children with low-grade fevers were actually turned away for a vaccination appointment, but Stewart asked that they adhere to the CDC guidelines moving forward nonetheless.
If there is question about whether to vaccinate a child with a fever, nurses have been asked to consult Dr. Stewart before turning that child away, he said.
“I appreciate the input,” Stewart said, “and I think we have it taken care of.”
The health board, too, gave approval to sanitarian Madeline Moon for yet another expansion of its food permitting program.
Moon said the health department, per state law, can ask any local business that sells food of any kind “for human consumption,” whether it be pre-packaged or fresh, to secure a proper service permit.
In the past, they've actually required a permit of Rural King, since it sells packaged food — things like candy and chips — as well as fresh popcorn.
She said she was recently contacted by officials with the new Hobby Lobby, set to open on Monday, to seek information on the process associated with getting a county food service permit. They will sell, Moon said, things like cake mixes, chips and other snacks.
She saw it as an opportunity, she told the board, to expand the county policy and be sure everyone is playing by the same rules.
“It's at the county's discretion as to whether or not to require a permit,” she said. “And I think we should include everyone.”
One such similar business she will look to have secure such a food permit, she said, is Lowe's Home Improvement, 2700 N. Sixth St., since it does sell pre-packaged candy and snacks.
“I can think of at least four,” Moon said, “that have food and sell a large volume of it,” she said. “So I want to approach those businesses to go through the process and get them permitted.”
Board vice-president Don Fredrick said he was all for it.
“If they're selling (food) to the public, then they're no different than McDonald's,” Fredrick said.
“If you're going to do one, then you need to do them all,” said board president Dan Combs.
Stewart, too, said he saw an opportunity to “be inclusive in protecting the public and making sure all food is sold properly.”
The board last September implemented a new food permit policy that applies to roaming vendors and food trucks, ones that set up for festivals like the Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous, Festival Latino, the Watermelon Festival, Food Trucks on the Wabash, and many others.
Members implemented the first-ever food vendor policy, which states that all vendors must secure their permit from the health department a full 48 hours ahead of the event itself.
Moon argued that it would alleviate the often frequent demand that she visit the vendor on site, at the actual event, on the day-of, to collect money and, if all the boxes are checked, issue the permit.
The new policy also makes specific requests of event coordinators. They must now submit to the health department 14 days ahead of time a full map of food vendors, restrooms and hand-washing facilities.
Food trucks and mobile food vendors can still seek either a temporary permit or an annual permit; food trucks that operate on a regular basis, like Thainamite, usually get an annual permit to avoid having to constantly fill out health department paperwork.
But many, she said, seek temporary permits, which are good for three days, as there is often less red tape to navigate.
The 48-hour timeline applies to both.
The board also discussed once again the possibility of placing immunization clinics in local schools.
Last year, when Stewart took over as county health officer, he set a goal to increase the county's vaccination rate, which hovers at around 80%.
He expanded the immunization clinic's hours and added a list of adult immunizations as well, thereby allowing parents and guardians to get much-needed vaccinations as well.
This year, he told the board, he wants to expand into the schools and has been in touch with local school nurses in an effort to set up clinics.
Vincennes Catholic Schools, he said, don't seem interested as they're only a couple of blocks from the immunization clinic at 305 S. Fifth St.
But nurses at the Vincennes Community School Corp. are “quite excited about it,” Stewart said, and he'd like to target, too, North Knox and South Knox school corporations as they're the farthest away from the immunization clinic.
“So our goal is to do that this year,” he said. “And we'll see how it works.”