City of Lawrence reports increase of 40 COVID-19 cases among staff in past month; 10 cases remain active

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

Though the total number of COVID-19 cases among City of Lawrence employees since the beginning of the pandemic nearly doubled in the past month, the increase is not due to transmission of the virus in the workplace.

The city’s monthly update regarding cases indicates a cumulative 87 cases among full-time and part-time city staff since the pandemic began, including 10 active cases. There had been 47 cases total in the city’s December update, meaning 40 cases, or about 46% of all cases since the pandemic began, occurred in the past month. However, the increase is not due to spread among city workers, meaning there are no outbreaks associated with any city departments or buildings.

Specifically, city spokesman Porter Arneill said in an email to the Journal-World that Lawrence Douglas County Public Health determined that no transmission of COVID-19 occurred between city employees in the new cases included in the January update. He said there continues to be only one case of transmission between city employees, which was reported in July between two part-time employees who worked for the city’s Eagle Bend golf course.

The spike in cases among city employees roughly follows the surge in cases in the broader community, which peaked in mid-November when the county had a two-week average of about 78 cases per day, according to health department data. Though in the weeks since then that number decreased to as low as 43 cases per day, it is on the rise again, and as of Tuesday was about 51 cases per day.

The City of Lawrence employs more than 800 people, and though some employees are working remotely if their duties allow, most have been reporting to work on-site, as the Journal-World reported in April. In some departments, the city has also been using staggered schedules between work and home to help spread out workers. Arneill said this week that no changes to the city’s work-from-home setup had occurred.

The update also notes that the city has used federal coronavirus relief aid to install electronic air-cleaning systems in 24 city buildings, including City Hall, the Community Health Building, the police headquarters, the fire-medical stations, the Lawrence Public Library, the Lawrence Arts Center, three buildings at the Eagle Bend golf course and all four recreation centers, among others. As previously reported, the city received $1.5 million in federal coronavirus relief grants, and $355,000 went toward the purchase and installation the air-cleaning systems, which use bipolar ionization that has been proven to kill pathogens over time, including the coronavirus.

According to the update, 63 of the cumulative cases are among full-time employees, with the largest percentage of those cases occurring in the municipal services and operations, police, and fire and medical departments. There have been 24 cumulative cases among part-time workers, 21 of which were among parks and recreation employees. Of the 10 active cases, seven are full-time employees and three are part-time.

The update states that the health department continues to handle contact tracing for the general public, and if there is ever a concern of an outbreak of COVID-19 tied to a city facility or employees, the city will work with the department to announce the case at that time.


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