What you should know if you hear about a potential COVID-19 case linked to a local establishment

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Lansing, Mich. (WLNS)– Health Officials say rumors of COVID-19 within local establishments aren’t anything new, but with 161 cases tied to Harpers so far and new reports of an outbreak tied to an animal hospital, it can cause concern about other businesses.

“There’s a lot that goes into deciding when to notify or how to notify and we certainly don’t notify based on rumors,” Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said.

Vail said it’s nearly impossible for local health departments to chase down every rumor, but they are constantly receiving information about positive cases, which they then follow-up on.

“We’re at over a thousand cases in Ingham County and every single one of them has involved extensive contact tracing,” Vail said.

When a case comes back positive, the health department contacts that person to find out where they were 48 hours prior to when they developed symptoms including where they’re employed. If that employee showed symptoms at work, their place of employment would need to shut down for a deep cleaning, often overnight, but sometimes that can be done in as little as a few hours.

Vail said that means even if an employee tests positive, they might not have been at work during an infectious period, meaning no reason to contact people who were at that establishment.

“If there are multiple employees that are ill as to whether or not they need to close down for a longer period of time, as well as was there any significant public exposure, and if there was we notify the public.”

Although many businesses act out of an abundance of caution, Vail said there is a possibility that an establishment could try to cover up any cases tied to their business, but anytime a test comes back positive, the health department gets ahold of that person and finds out where they work, making it almost impossible to hide from.

“As soon as we get that confirmed positive and call that person and find out ‘well I work at this place and they didn’t do this, they aren’t doing this’, or those sorts of things, then we need a full employee list of anybody that worked at the same time as the individual who we know was positive during their transmissible period, and it carries on out from there,” Vail said.

If you have tested positive and you feel like your place of employment isn’t taking the proper precautions, that’s when you should contact the health department.

“The first thing we’re going to need to know is their name and date of birth to look it up in the system, confirm that that person is positive, and then basically say ‘ok when were you at work?’ in order for us to say ‘yes you were at work’ during an infectious period,” Vail said.

Vail added, even if there are only a few cases tied to a business, like Riverfront Animal Hospital, those few people could spread the virus even further. If the business isn’t able to provide a list of all the people who could’ve been exposed, that’s when the public would be notified.

“If there were a reason to notify the entire public, we would do so.”

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