25 city employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began; one case currently active
photo by: Mike Yoder
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, 25 city employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, with one of those cases currently active.
The city was formerly issuing news releases to announce each positive case, but city spokesman Porter Arneill said in an email to the Journal-World that the city is no longer announcing cases as they arise unless the local health department determines there is a risk to the public. However, he said the city is working closely with Lawrence Douglas County Public Health on all cases, and that health department staff is including city employee cases in the public totals and notifying any close contacts.
Arneill said the city decided to stop announcing all cases because its numbers have been low and without public risk per contact tracing, but if a positive city employee had a lot of public interactions as part of their duties, the city would make an announcement.
“In working with LDCPH, if they determined that there was a public risk, we would let people know,” Arneill said.
Arneill said that information about positive cases is still shared immediately with city employees or individual members of the public who may have been in direct contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or is being quarantined due to experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. He added that anytime a staff member is potentially exposed to COVID-19, they are placed in a precautionary quarantine until their test results come back.
An update about cases among city staff is also shared internally with city staff on a monthly basis, and Arneill offered to provide those updates to the Journal-World as well. According to that information, of the 25 total cases, 13 have been full-time employees, comprising four police employees, four municipal services and operations employees, two fire and medical employees, two parks and recreation employees and one employee in the city attorney’s office. The 12 part-time employees that tested positive comprised 11 summer/seasonal employees in the Parks and Recreation Department and one employee in the city attorney’s office. The one currently active case is in the MSO department.
The last case the city publicly announced was on Aug. 17, when the city announced two new cases and stated that five full-time city employees had tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic. The Journal-World also reported in mid-September that a Lawrence Police Department employee who recently attended a gathering with the interim police chief has tested positive for COVID-19, requiring the interim chief to quarantine. The Journal-World learned of the situation through an email Interim Police Chief Anthony Brixius sent to Lawrence Police Department staff that was provided to the newspaper.
Arneill said the city will update the cumulative report on cases among city employees in early December, and that another update could be provided to the newspaper at that time.