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WRH confirms employee tests positive for COVID-19

Officials with Whitfield Regional Hospital have confirmed that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19. This is the first confirmed case inside Marengo County.

According to WRH CEO Doug Brewer, it is believed the employee who tested positive contracted the new coronavirus while traveling out of state. Brewer added that the employee has not been on-site at the hospital since Monday and that screenings done that day did not reveal a temperature or any other signs of the coronavirus. When the employee reported not feeling well, Brewer said a test was conducted through UAB to get the results back more quickly. The employee is now recovering and self-isolating at home.

“Please keep in mind this particular employee has not been on site since earlier this week and it’s important to note — we believe the employee did not contract the virus at WRH but had traveled out of state recently,” Brewer said. “We are currently working with UAB Infectious Disease physicians and using their guidelines for any employee who may have come into contact with this employee. Those who worked closely over a prolonged period of time with the affected employee will wear a mask and be monitored daily. Rest assured we are doing everything we can to protect all employees and our patients.”

The hospital is working to ensure that employees have access to personal protective equipment, which Brewer said the hospital has in adequate supply.

Under the UAB Infectious Disease guidelines, employees who may have had “prolonged contact” with the coronavirus patient would be required to wear a mask for seven days and be monitored daily. Brewer said some hospital employees had already elected to wear masks.

“We have added a mask check out process to our current temperature station in the main lobby of WRH. We will be training employees on the proper way to wear and store the mask. In order to conserve supplies, those not working with isolated patients will be asked to wear their mask for five shifts before being issued a new one.  Additionally, PPE training will begin today for employees entering isolation rooms.  Our goal is to make sure all employees feel safe and secure and to provide resources for them to protect, not only themselves and their families, but to also take great care of our patients,” Brewer said.

The hospital has been working for weeks to prepare for handling the coronavirus. “The bottom line is, we knew that ultimately we would have a case and now it is here. The hospital started preparing for this weeks ago,” Brewer said.

Work has been underway to convert a Detox Unit into a COVID-19 isolation unit. The hospital is not seeing detox patients at the present time.

“The best practice is still to stay at home, shelter in place,” Brewer said.

Along with Marengo County’s first case, Alabama’s confirmed cases stands at 517 cases as of Thursday, 5:40 p.m., according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Neighboring counties — Dallas and Wilcox — each have two confirmed case of the coronavirus. Choctaw County had its first confirmed case on Thursday. Tuscaloosa County has 19 confirmed cases.

There are no confirmed cases in Sumter, Greene, Hale, Perry, and Clarke counties as of Wednesday afternoon.

The state also recorded its first COVID-19 related death on Wednesday, which was in Jackson County in northeast Alabama.