The Whitley County Health Department has issued three public notices within the last week advising of potential exposure to COVID–19.
The notices involve the Whitley County Sheriff’s Office and Saxton Baptist Church in Williamsburg.
Anyone who visited the sheriff’s office located in the Whitley County Courthouse between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Monday, July 27 may have been exposed.
Sheriff Todd Shelley said an employee, who had previously tested negative, may have been exposed to a family member confirmed to have COVID–19.
“As soon as the employee found out, the employee was sent home,” Shelley said.
Shelley said there are large shower liners hanging from the ceiling to the counter in the sheriff’s office, which have small slots for paperwork to be passed back and forth in an effort to limit contact between employees and the public, while still permitting business to be conducted.
“The girls are constantly wiping down the counter and their desks with disinfectant,” Shelley said adding that deputies are taking similar steps with their cruisers, handcuffs, and other equipment that may come into contact with the public.
In addition, all employees are required to wear masks when in contact with the public or other employees.
Health department officials emphasized that exposure would have been limited to the sheriff’s office and not any other county office located in the courthouse, which includes the judge-executive, county clerk, property valuation administrator, and county attorney.
The public notices concerning Saxton Baptist Church are in connection with its Sunday service held on July 26, and a youth camp in Chattanooga, Tennessee held between July 19 and July 24.
Whitley County Health Department Director Marci Rein said the Sunday service notice was issued after two church members, from two different households, tested positive.
Rein noted attending the church service was the only thing the two people had in common.
“We have now identified eight people who have tested positive,” Rein said of the church.
The second public notice was issued Monday afternoon concerning the youth trip to Booker T. Washington State Park.
Rein said three people who went on the trip as part of the group from Saxton Baptist Church have tested positive.
“The public notice doesn’t imply that they failed to do anything,” Rein said of officials at the sheriff’s office or church officials. “It is out of an abundance of caution.”
Rein said in order for the health department to issue a public notice concerning a business or organization and a communicable disease, two out of four criteria must be met.
“Those criteria include:
- More than 10 people present
- The use of physical distancing and face coverings
- Cluster of more than two people testing positive
- That cluster not involving people from the same household
Rein emphasized that by issuing such notices, the health department is not seeking to punish anyone.
“We are trying to develop the big picture,” Rein said noting it is part of an effort to determine the connections that have resulted in the disease/virus being contracted, and who else the individuals may have come into contact with.
Anyone who was at the sheriff’s office during that time period, attended services at Saxton Baptist Church, or was with the youth group on the trip is asked to contact the health department at 549-3380.