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COVID diagnosis leads to quarantine of several Martins Ferry workers

MARTINS FERRY — The city of Martins Ferry has been forced to quarantine a number of its workers after one employee was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Mayor John Davies said via social media that half of the city’s workforce would be quarantined for 14 days because of the positive case, a man who works in the sanitation department.

“We will be following all guidelines set by local and state government dealing with this pandemic. So please have patience with the city while picking up trash because we will have men not familiar with the routes.

“We will only be doing emergency water breaks and emergency issues for the next few weeks. Thank you for your patience,” he wrote.

Because there are fewer workers to upkeep the city for now, Davies said he was pitching in with a garbage crew on Thursday morning, collecting residents’ trash. He said Bill Suto, water superintendent, and other supervisors were helping, too.

Prior to the announcement regarding the COVID-positive worker, Davies announced the city building would once again be closed to the public because of the uptick of cases in the region.

The building had been open for a couple weeks after the state of Ohio began lifting its stay-at-home orders and closures of businesses that were deemed “non essential.”

But a recent increase in cases has occurred in Belmont County. As of Friday, a total of 569 residents had tested positive, with 485 now recovered and 22 deaths. Belmont County was under an orange alert level, or the second level of the state’s new four-tiered, color-coded alert system.

Due to an “influx of the COVID-19 virus in the area we are again locking down the city building to protect our employees beginning immediately until further notice. You can pay your utility in the drop box across the street from the city building. Sorry for any inconvenience,” Davies announced on social media this week.

Davies on Thursday said the worker is recovering at home and is doing well despite contracting the virus. He said he plans to keep in touch with him and all of the employees in quarantine to make sure they are doing OK.

Davies said he has been in contact with the Belmont County Health Department for guidance on the situation. He said the worker who tested positive must have two negative tests before being allowed to come back to work. He believes the other workers also likely will get tested.

Davies said as soon as he was told that a worker might be positive he made sure they were taken off the job.

“I got a call over the weekend that an employee had to go for COVID testing. The employee should have been self quarantined; I’m not sure why he came back to work (Monday). … On Monday, when I learned he was working the back on the packer I took him off immediately. He tested positive on Tuesday,” Davies said.

He said the worker had recently been on vacation at a beach, though he did not know which one.

“He was on vacation and supposedly he got tested after a couple people he roomed with tested positive,” Davies said.

Davies said since both sanitation and street employees all work out of the same building, this called for the quarantine of the 18 workers. There are separate buildings for the police and water department employees, he noted.

Davies said about two months ago the Martins Ferry EMS had a positive COVID case, leading to the quarantine of several employees there. It did not spread to other workers, however. He noted during that time, the EMS leaned on its mutual aid from other municipalities to take medical calls.

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