Merced City Manager Steve Carrigan told the County Times this evening that a process has been underway to notify and direct health testing to city employees and others who came into contact with a police officer who has tested positive for the coronavirus.
“We are monitoring those folks,” he said, adding that he couldn’t comment on certain specific medical conditions due to so-called HIPPA laws, (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).
Employees have been informed on steps they need to take to protect themselves and others around them. Tests for the virus are conducted as per recommendations of the Merced County Department of Public Health.
The officer lives in Madera, and because of that, the county has not listed the case on its number of confirmed coronavirus cases that remained at 0 on Thursday. The individual is reportedly quarantined at home.
Carrigan said the Merced Police Department remains fully staffed and that daily service will remain the same.
“There is going to be no drop-off in service,” he said in a phone interview. “These are very, very, very unique times. We just all have to be safe. We are taking every precaution that we can. This week, I’ve talked to every police officer. I’ve talked to every firefighter. I spoke to every single one of them, and I told them how important they were to the city. I told them to be safe and take care, and certainly if we have any issues they need to speak up … I’m fully confident that the employees are well-informed and educated on the issue. I absolutely expect them — if they have any concerns — they are going to speak up. So for right now, we have one employee that has tested positive. It was bound to happen, and it did.”
News of the officer contacting the virus was first reported in the Merced Sun-Star this afternoon. Sheriff Vern Warnke informed the paper that the police officer was in “contact with multiple individuals at the Merced County Courthouse that led to a mistrial in a case.” The MPD employee, reportedly, was also in contact with individuals at the Merced County District Attorney’s Office.
Carrigan did not comment on reports that the police officer in question may have had contact with county court and law enforcement officials.
Carrigan says the City of Merced is now moving from a Level 3 emergency response to a Level 2 response, bringing in more staff and setting up an Emergency Command Center.
“This is going to get worse before it gets better,” Carrigan told the Times, “and that’s because we are going to see more and more testing. There are private labs like LabCorp and Quest coming on. They are going to be able to test thousands of people every day. The testing the numbers will go up. We are preparing for that. We have structure. We have organization. I’m very proud of all the city employees. We are just getting started. I just need everybody’s cooperation. The governor ordered a shelter in place. We need to abide by that. We need to be safe. We need to stay home.”
ALSO THURSDAY NIGHT …
In a video on YouTube that was circulated on local social media sites, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke explains how his department found out about the case and expressing some reaction to it.