A message from Mayor Birney
The safety of the community and our employees is always at the forefront of all decisions being made by the City during this unprecedented and rapidly evolving situation. Recently the media has reported several inaccuracies related to the City’s response to employees that tested positive for COVID-19. To provide the Redmond community with continued transparency, I’d like to take this opportunity to provide you with the facts.
First COVID-19 Positive Case: (Employee 1)
The City was made aware of the first employee positive COVID-19 case on March 12. Employee 1, who tested positive, was off work starting on March 6 and did not show any symptoms until March 9. Prior to March 6, the employee was symptom-free.
At no time did the City instruct the Fire Command staff to stay quiet. Rather, the City acted in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the City was unable to provide the name of the affected employee. The City is obligated to be careful not to identify where the employee worked, gender, or other qualifiers that might identify the employee.
Once the City learned Employee 1 tested positive for COVID-19 on March 12, the City immediately followed the recommendations of Dr. Jeffrey Duchin (King County Public Health Officer) and Dr. Thomas Rea (Program Medical Director for King County Medic One), in consultation with Redmond’s Medical Services Officer, Jim Whitney, to immediately close City facilities, send staff home, and notify staff, the Council and the community regarding the presumptive case and closures. The facilities were then deep cleaned in accordance with CDC recommendations before any employees could return to work. This was done for the safety of employees, the Council, and the community.
In accordance with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Union leadership, the firefighter/paramedics who were exposed to COVID-19 at Kirkland’s Life Care Center during the week of February 24 were wearing their personal protective equipment (PPE’s) and were protected based upon our standards at the time. All employees who provided service at Life Care Center were immediately relieved of duty and quarantined for 14 days. None of these employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Employees Who Tested Positive
In accordance with the ADA, the City had intentionally not released the names of the employees to staff, the Council, or the community because we did not have their written authorization.
On March 12, as soon as the City knew Employee 1 tested positive, Employee 2 and Employee 3 were notified of the positive result of Employee 1 and told to quarantine or isolate. Later, Employee 2 disclosed testing positive for COVID-19, but Employee 3 did not disclose to the City. Employee 4 became sick on March 13 but did not report sick until March 16. However, Employee 4 never disclosed to the City that they tested positive for COVID-19. Employee 5 became ill with COVID-19 while off work and did not return to work until fully recovered.
At this time, it is unclear how the employees were exposed to COVID-19 and because Employees 3 and 4 did not disclose to the City their positive results, the City was unable to notify anyone who might have been exposed.
Emergency Coordination Center (ECC)
Within the ECC, there were no guidelines or procedures in place to manage this situation, including properly notifying volunteers. Once it was determined there were significant gaps in the ECC processes and procedures, leadership in the ECC was changed at the direction of the Mayor to ensure a heightened level of service.
Additionally, the volunteers in the ECC were not notified because Employee 3 and Employee 4 who had worked in the ECC did not disclose their positive results to City leadership.
The City continues to follow the recommendations and guidelines of the CDC and King County Public Health to ensure the safety of the employees, the Council, and the community. We have done all we can with the information received during this time. Fortunately, the employees who tested positive for COVID-19 have been able to return to work.
I recognize the complexities of this situation and I have directed staff to initiate an external investigation. I will continue to update you as information becomes available.