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Orem driver license office employee tests positive for COVID-19

By Garna Mejia, KSL TV | Posted - Jul. 3, 2020 at 8:41 a.m.

OREM — Officials with the Driver License Division office in Orem confirmed one of their 30 or so employees tested positive for COVID-19, but there are concerns the public wasn’t properly informed.

Sources shared an email sent out to employees on Monday afternoon. It instructed them not to panic and go home if they’re experiencing symptoms.

The infected employee also allegedly posted on social media that they had tested positive, saying in part, “I feel like it’s the right thing to do, since I do work with the public face to face. I have every symptom I could think possible, besides fever.”

Now, employees are concerned more was not done by officials to inform the public.

In a similar case last month, the South Salt Lake Division of Motor Vehicles Office closed for a week and required all employees to be tested.

But at the Orem Driver License Division office, which operates under the Utah Department of Public Safety, a different approach was taken.

“On Sunday the 28th the Orem Supervisory Staff became aware the employee sought testing on the 27th,” said Christopher Caras, driver license division director.

According to Caras, the employee worked last week but did not show any symptoms during the daily COVID-19 screening.

Caras said before starting their shift, employees must have their temperatures taken and answer a questionnaire about possible symptoms they may be experiencing including fever, shortness of breath and cough.

They also ask employees if they have been in contact with anyone who may be infected.

Caras said the office also has multiple safety measures in place, like wearing face masks, using acrylic dividers, additional cleaning and strict social distancing measures.

Officials did not consider there to be a significant risk to the public following the case confirmation.

“The risk seemed extremely minimal that they [employees and the public] could have been exposed with the countermeasures that are in place,” Caras said.

Caras said tracking down all those who visited the office is also a challenge.

“We don’t have a process in place that would allow us to quickly find a way to notify all the individuals who may have occurred in a specific office on a specific date,” he said.

We didn’t feel we needed to go to that extent. If there was a higher reason to believe that we had placed the public at a higher risk, then we would’ve surely taken that measure.

–Christopher Caras, Utah Driver License Division Director

And officials didn’t want to create panic in the community by putting out a major blast.

“We didn’t feel we needed to go to that extent,” Caras said. “If there was a higher reason to believe that we had placed the public at a higher risk, then we would’ve surely taken that measure.”

Caras said they also didn’t feel contact tracing was necessary, adding that they were in close communication with state and local health officials.

“As far as tracing the individuals that may have appeared at an office that day, we had not gone to that extent like I mentioned, because the risk seemed extremely minimal that they could have been exposed with the countermeasures that are in place,” Caras said.

Health officials said they usually only get involved in cases at a business when there is an outbreak, and while they provide guidelines, there are no requirements for businesses to close when an employee tests positive.

The Utah County Health Department provided the following statement to KSL:

“Due to medical privacy laws (HIPPA), Utah County Health Department is not able to confirm positive cases in the community. In the event of a positive case, health department staff interview the positive case and then conduct contact tracing. In a workplace or organization setting public health doesn’t generally get involved unless the number of positive cases warrants public health involvement, OR a business owner or manager reaches out with questions or is looking for guidance. The state has provided and continues to provide good updated comprehensive guidance in the Utah Leads Together and COVID-19 Business Manual. Those documents are available along with many other great resources on the website. There are helpful materials for individuals, businesses, government entities, and other organizations. As a local health department, we appreciate the public’s cooperation with epidemiological investigations and encourage the public to continue to follow all COVID-19 guidelines.”

Garna Mejia

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