The Clark County Combined Health District is investigating a workplace outbreak at Mercy Health — Springfield Regional Medical Center after 13 of the center’s employees tested positive for the coronavirus.
Emma Smales, the spokesperson for the CCCHD, said the outbreak is one of, “a bunch,” of outbreaks the district is investigating as coronavirus cases continue growing in Clark County. The district defines an outbreak as any common location that has more than two positive coronavirus patients linked to it.
“People are relaxing because other stuff has started to take over the news cycle,” Smales said. “People are over it they don’t want to hear about it anymore, they want to go outside and have a normal summer but that’s not how it works. We are still seeing a considerable amount of cases in this county.”
In addition to the outbreak at the medical center, the district is also investigating Navistar’s Springfield plant, after four employees have come up positive for the coronavirus, according to Chris Blizard, the president of UAW Local 402.
Many more are out of work being tested, according to a weekly recap sent to members of UAW Local 402 on Monday. That union represents assembly production workers at the plant as well as those in skilled trades.
The plant is still running production on its main assembly line, Blizard said. Employees are asked not to report to work if experiencing symptoms and to continue to practice social distancing when possible, good hygiene and to wear face protection while in the facility.
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Smales said the outbreak at Mercy Health roughly began last week. Seven of 13 confirmed cases are Clark County residents, while the other six are employees who live outside the county. None of the employees are hospitalized and all employees who have tested positive are not working and are home isolating.
It appears the outbreak did not originate with a positive coronavirus patient, Smales said.
“Instead, we think it started with a pre-symptomatic employee,” Smales said Wednesday. “As far as we know now, almost everyone who is positive is symptomatic right now, so no one is asymptomatic, but they probably were at the time this started.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, no patients the employees came in contact with prior to their positive tests have tested positive, which may be thanks to employees wearing personal protective equipment, otherwise referred to as PPE, or other policies put in place by the health center, Smales said.
“As far as we know, they had very strict policies in place as far as PPE, and the cafeteria, where people were eating and socializing, as far as we know they were doing the right thing,” Smales said. “But they are humans and humans are going to do what they want. The hospital can’t watch every employee all the time.”
In a statement, Nanette Bentley, PR Director for Mercy Health, said the medical center has followed all safety protocols “each and every time we care for patients and also follow the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state department of health to minimize exposure to other patients and our associates.”
“We have followed all CDC cleaning protocols and Mercy Health remains a safe place to work and seek care,” Bentley said.
The medical center will remain open and has implemented a number of safety precautions during the coronavirus pandemic which includes:
• Temporarily reducing the entry points into the facility to, “better protect the health and safety of all who enter.”
• Asking patients about symptoms and history and checking their temperature as part of the screening process.
• Ensuring all patients are masked on entry to the facility and remain masked during their stay.
• Restricting visitors and asking that people to not visit the facility.
• Implementing social distancing guidelines, especially in public areas like lobbies.
• Having employees follow PPE guidelines including wearing masks in all settings.
• In addition to normal cleaning, adding environmental cleaning and disinfection procedures in line with CDC recommendations for the coronavirus.
Clark County has 384 cases, seven deaths and one probable death of the coronavirus as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s website.
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