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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Cuyahoga County Administrative Building Has Run of Covid-19 Infections, But Will Stay Open to Serve Public

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2020 at 11:40 AM

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Internal emails shared with Scene reveal that the Cuyahoga County administrative building on E. 9th and Prospect has had several staffers test positive for Covid-19 in recent weeks.

The infections are not unexpected, given the statewide surge in cases. But just like at Cleveland City Hall, where workers have questioned a mandatory return to work as case numbers and hospitalizations soar, county workers are fearful of continued outbreaks at the office. 

On Friday, Oct. 30, the county's communications department sent an internal email alerting staff that an employee had tested positive for the virus, having last worked on Oct. 28. The employee worked on the building's fourth floor.

On Monday, Nov. 16, county communications sent another internal email, this time informing staff that two employees who worked on the third floor had tested positive for Covid-19: one on Nov. 4 and the other on Nov. 14.

A day later — last Tuesday — the communications team sent a staff email notifying employees that there had been yet another new infection. This time the employee had been on both the eighth and sixth floors and was last in the office on Friday, Nov. 13.

All emails mentioned that contact tracing had begun and that cleaning of the employees' work stations had been conducted.  The emails urged employees to remember to wear masks and maintain social distance while at work and asked that they stay home if feeling unwell.

County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan told Scene that the Covid-19 work plans at county HQ have remained largely unchanged since April, and that a number of employees are working remotely. "If people can work from home, they are," she said, but could not immediately provide a total number or percentage of employees working in person. She said that in-person administrative staff were necessary to serve the public out of the building, and that all visitors are screened upon entry.

"We're doing the best we can to limit it," Madigan said, "and we've encouraged people to do what they can online." 

In anonymous comments submitted to Scene, a county employee noted that Cuyahoga County Council is meeting virtually and that both the county prosecutor's office and probate division are working with limited in-person staff. Administrative employees, they said, are bearing the highest safety risks. They wondered what would happen during the upcoming busy "tax season," when more employees will be required to serve the public.

Madigan said that as it stands, the county still plans to have the building open and serve the public during tax season. 

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