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Fellsmere City Hall worker tests positive for COVID-19; building re-opening on hold

The St. Lucie News-Tribune logo The St. Lucie News-Tribune 5/22/2020 Janet Begley, Special to TCPalm.com
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FELLSMERE —  An employee at the City Hall complex has tested positive for COVID-19, necessitating the testing of all employees for the novel coronavirus.

The complex, 22 S. Orange St., includes the city's offices and Police Department headquarters.

City Manager Mark Mathes announced during Thursday’s council meeting that the one city employee has tested positive for the virus.

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“We had one employee we sent home that came back with a positive test,” said Mathes. “We’re sending that employee back for a second test because their spouse tested negative and we’re concerned if it was a false positive or not.”

a sign on the side of a building: Adriana Contreras, a medical assistant at Treasure Coast Community Health in Fellsmere, sits outside the entrance of the clinic on Thursday, May 7, 2020, to screen patients for symptoms of COVID-19 before they enter the building. © PATRICK DOVE/TCPALM Adriana Contreras, a medical assistant at Treasure Coast Community Health in Fellsmere, sits outside the entrance of the clinic on Thursday, May 7, 2020, to screen patients for symptoms of COVID-19 before they enter the building.

Results from that second test, as well as tests from the remainder of Fellsmere employees, have not been received. Mathes said he believes Fellsmere will still be "in good shape" even if the second test comes back positive.

According to state Department of Health statistics, three people in Fellsmere have tested positive for the disease as of Friday.

On May 8,  Miranda Hawker, health officer for Indian River County, said the local health department didn't have the capacity for mobile testing labs.

Plans were being discussed to increase outreach, including educational materials in English and Spanish to the Fellsmere community, Hawker said. 

"As we do increase testing, we will see additional cases," Hawker has said.

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Major COVID-19 testing locations, and those closest to Fellsmere, are Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital and Sebastian River Medical Center. Health Department data does not show how many Fellsmere residents, specifically, have received testing anywhere. 

As a precautionary measure, the city has installed petition walls in City Hall offices to keep employees compliant with social distancing requirements. All employees have received masks, gloves and cleaning supplies.

City Hall was closed to the general public on March 20 but some employees are still coming to work rather than working from home.

The city has installed a drop box in front of City Hall where customers can drive or walk-up to it. Utility and other payments, building permit applications and development plans and applications can be placed in the drop box. 

a man standing in a kitchen: Mark Mathes was named Fellsmere city manager on Aug. 1, 2019. © JANET BEGLEY/SPECIAL TO TCPALM Mark Mathes was named Fellsmere city manager on Aug. 1, 2019.

Trying to determine when to re-open City Hall is tricky, Mathes said.

Prior to the positive test result, Mathes was hoping to open city offices by June 1 and start conducting council meetings in person rather than electronically.

Now that date has been pushed back to late June.

“But if Fellsmere City Hall becomes a hot spot, obviously we’re not going to reopen,” Mathes said.

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Fellsmere City Hall worker tests positive for COVID-19; building re-opening on hold

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