Clearwater Paper confirmed the first positive case of COVID-19 among the workforce at its Lewiston mill Monday.
Operations at the mill will continue with precautions that were previously implemented to help stem the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“The employee exhibited symptoms while away from the mill and has not been in the mill since March 25,” the company said in a statement. “The employee remains in self-quarantine at home. We have also been in contact with the local health department.”
Public Health – Idaho North Central District Director Carol Moehrle said she could not confirm whether the Clearwater Paper case is one of three new positive COVID-19 tests reports received by the district Monday. Two of the new cases were in Nez Perce County and one was in Latah County. None of the new cases have required hospitalization, and all the patients are recovering at home, she said.
In its statement, Clearwater Paper said employees in the same workgroup as the person who tested positive have been interviewed and none are currently showing symptoms of COVID-19, possibly because of social distancing and other mitigation efforts.
“We completed a third-party disinfection of the potentially affected work areas and common spaces,” the statement said. “We will continue to take all appropriate actions to ensure the well-being of our employees.”
Symptoms of the disease can lay dormant for around two weeks after a person has been infected, however, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The mill — which is the largest single employer in the Lewiston region — has so far resisted calls to shut down its operations entirely, most notably from Lewiston City Councilor John Bradbury.
Lewiston Fire Department Chief Travis Myklebust told the Lewiston City Council at Monday’s work session that his department has transported four people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the last 10 days. But his emergency medical staff has sufficient stocks of the personal protective equipment it needs to stay safe, and almost all members are available and working, he said.
Asotin and Whitman counties each reported one new case Monday. A news release from the Asotin County Public Health District said the notification of the case, its fourth, came Sunday night.
“The individual who tested positive is not hospitalized and is isolating at home,” the news release said. “This individual had known contact with a confirmed case. To protect the privacy of those testing positive, information that may lead to a person’s identity being revealed will not be disclosed.”
The district is notifying anyone who potentially had close contact with the person to give them guidance and advise them of precautions they should take. The district will then ask the identified parties to self-quarantine for 14 days after their last contact with the person who tested positive.
“During this time, they monitor themselves for any potential symptoms while staying at home and avoiding contact with others,” the news release said. “If they develop symptoms, they will work with providers to determine if they should be tested.”
The Whitman County Health Department’s latest case brings the countywide total to 12. The patient is a female between the ages of 40 and 59, according to a news release, but her status Monday afternoon was unknown. The health department is investigating.
On its Facebook page, the department said Washington state is experiencing significant community transmission of the coronavirus and reiterated that it can be passed from person to person, even though they may not be showing any symptoms. The Washington State Department of Health and the CDC are now recommending that people wear cloth face coverings when they are in public settings where they cannot maintain 6 feet of distance from others.
“This might include trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, hardware store, health clinic or similar places,” the department said in its statement. “This recommendation is not a substitute for existing guidance to maintain 6 feet of physical distance from non-household members and performing frequent hand hygiene with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Wearing cloth face coverings will not prevent spread of COVID-19 without these other protective measures.”
Also on Monday, Gritman Medical Center in Moscow announced that Pullman businessman Ed Schweitzer and his wife, Beatriz Schweitzer, donated $200,000 to support the hospital’s emergency response to the pandemic.
And local internet service provider Sparklight has added a public Wi-Fi hotspot at the Asotin Community Center parking lot at 305 First St. in Asotin. The company has already established a hotspot in the parking lot of its office in Lewiston at 2320 Nez Perce Grade.
Mills may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2266.