By Joe Johnson
An Athens-Clarke County employee in the Transit Department has reported to their supervisor that they tested positive for the novel 2019 coronavius (COVID-19).
The county said in a Monday night announcement that it is following guidance provided by the Georgia Department of Health with regard to isolation and quarantine, as well as patient privacy.
Privacy laws prevent the county from disclosing the position the employee held or any other information that could help identify them, county Public Information Officer Jeff Montgomery said.
However, according to Montgomery, the employee worked in an outdoor bus loading area of the Multimodal Transportation Center on East Broad Street where they would have had limited contact with the public. The employee had adhered to social distancing protocals as much as possible, Montgomery said.
The public announcement was made by the county "out of an abundance of caution" to notify members of the public who may have been in close contact with an employee at the MTC between March 17-23 so that thery could monitor themselves for symptoms.
According to DPH guidelines, close contact includes being within six feet of a sick person with COVID-19 for about 10 minutes or being in direct contact with secretions from a sick person with COVID-19 such as being coughed on.
According to the county government's announcement, the employee was not hospitalized and is currently recovering at home. Several employees who had close contact with the individual are currently under self-quarantining protocol until April 7, but are not showing any symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 may appear 2-14 days after exposure and may include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Anyone experiencing symptoms should contact a doctor or urgent care clinic for medical guidance. Individuals without close contact with a sick person with COVID-19 are at a lower risk for infection. Residents who are age 60 years or over, pregnant, or have medical conditions may be at increased risk of serious infection. Since the COVID-19 virus is circulating in Georgia and in Athens-Clarke County, everyone should take steps to protect themselves.
Stay Home: Athens-Clarke County is under a declared local state of emergency. Shelter in place 24/7 except for essential activities.
Stay Healthy: Wash hands often with soap and water, use hand sanitizer, and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands. Clean surfaces and wipe/disinfect often-used items and surfaces frequently.
Keep Distance: Stay at least six feet away from people in public spaces, when in essential businesses, or while working. Cancel events and group gatherings. Use drive-thru or delivery and eat at home. Follow Athens-Clarke County rules for essential and non-essential businesses.
Keep Connected: Check in by calling or connecting virtually with friends, family, and neighbors. Stay informed through the ACCGov website at www.accgov.com/coronavirus, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or information line at 706-613-3333.
Since March 18, Athens Transit buses have been on limited routes and undergoing a variety of measures to help minimize risk of exposure for passengers and employees. Buses are cleaned and disinfected every hour when they return. Additionally, all buses require passengers to enter through rear entry doors and “do not cross” barriers are placed behind drivers to promote social distancing between operators and passengers. The interior of the Multimodal Transportation Center has been closed to the public since March 18. Transit bus services will continue to operate fare free on a reduced weekend service of nine routes operating between 7:30 a.m. until 9:45 p.m. seven days a week. Specific routes, descriptions and schedules are available at www.accgov.com/transit. A one round trip rule has been instituted to prohibit continual riding of buses. Additionally, youth riders under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Lift Demand Response services are operating on a medically essential need only basis.