More than 20 Baldwin County employees are self-quarantined this week after someone visited the county courthouse recently and later learned they had tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, The Union-Recorder has learned.
The courthouse in downtown Milledgeville was closed Monday and Tuesday to undergo fumigation and “deep cleaning,” according to Baldwin County Manager Carlos Tobar.
The courthouse reopened to the public Wednesday, but only by appointment.
“We have a total of 23 employees who are self-quarantined right now,” Tobar confirmed in a telephone interview with the newspaper earlier this week.
Tobar was asked whether that figure was as the result of someone who had testing positive for COVID-19 visiting offices in the courthouse earlier this month.
“Some of them are self-quarantined for that reason, and some of them are self-quarantining because we did have an employee who had a fever; and out of an abundance of caution, whoever that person came in contact with, they were notified to self-quarantine,” Tobar said.
The county employee is no longer running a fever or feeling ill, Tobar said, noting he based such information on what the person posted on Facebook.
The county manager added that he could not say whether the employee was ever tested for COVID-19.
Tobar said the 23 county employees currently self-quarantined at their homes work in the Superior Court clerk’s office, Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, public defender’s office, tax assessor’s office and code enforcement office.
Tobar said none of the county employees who are at home have become sick to his knowledge.
“A lot of these folks have gotten laptops so that they can work from home,” Tobar said. “We’ve also encouraged as many of our county employees to work from home so that we can continue as best we can with day-to-day government operations.”
Fumigation of the courthouse was done all day Monday with a portion of it completed Tuesday, according to the county manager.
The work was done by county staff with no one else in the courthouse except for Tobar, who oversaw the “deep cleaning operation.”
The county manager said he worked from the lobby.
“I want to thank Wayne Johnson for having secured the equipment for us,” Tobar said.
Johnson serves as director of the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency.
Tobar said all the extra cleaning was again out of an abundance of caution for residents and county employees.
“We took all the necessary steps that we could to ensure that there were no viruses in our courthouse,” Tobar said.
As of Friday afternoon, there were two confirmed cases of the illness in Baldwin County, according to statistics provided by the Georgia Department of Health (DPH).
Following an emergency meeting held outside last Sunday by the five-member Baldwin County Board of Commissioners, Commission Chairman Henry R. Craig confirmed that the courthouse was closed Monday and Tuesday.
“I don’t know exactly how long that’s going to take, but we’re going to make sure our employees are safe and the public is safe,” Craig told reporters. “When the courthouse does open again, it will be by appointment only.”
Craig explained that residents of the county needing to do business with any of the offices in the courthouse need to call ahead.
“One of the things that the community should realize and will be emphasized throughout this procedure is most things can be done electronically,” Craig said. “You can get the information for your tags done electronically. You can get the information for a piece of property in the county through the Baldwin County Superior Court Clerk’s Office electronically. And so, that is going to be encouraged.”
The county commission chairman would not elaborate on why the deep cleaning at the courthouse was deemed necessary.
“I get all of my information from the Department of Public Health and when they give it to me, they don’t say who; they don’t say where; they just give me somebody else in Baldwin County has tested positive,” Craig said.
He noted that thousands of people had been in and out of the courthouse since the novel coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic was announced by health experts.
“Again, we want to make sure that the public is safe and that employees are safe,” Craig said.
Asked if he knew if anyone who works at the courthouse might be sick, the commission chairman said, “If I did, I wouldn’t tell you.”
He said that to speculate was dangerous.
“I suppose that there are probably three people who know — the public health department knows, the doctor knows, and the individual knows,” Craig said. “As a community leader, I hate the accusations that go on Facebook. It is just vicious. Unless the sick person tells you, it’s a rumor.”