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Dozens of Carmeuse workers could be quarantined after contractor tests positive

News Photo by Julie Riddle The Carmeuse Lime and Stone plant is seen from its main entrance near Rogers City on Wednesday afternoon. Dozens of employees there could end up in quarantine after a contractor who worked at the plant later tested positive for COVID-19.

ROGERS CITY — Dozens of Carmeuse Lime and Stone employees could be asked to self-quarantine because two employees became ill after working alongside a contractor who later tested positive for coronavirus infection.

Other employees were asked to self-quarantine after coming in contact with the two employees who had worked with the infected contractor, and company and public health officials are working to identify any others who may need to quarantine. Officials expect as many as 30 people could be impacted, said Carmeuse spokesman Kevin Whyte.

It isn’t clear if the two Carmeuse employees who are ill have COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, because those employees reported only today for testing, Whyte said.

One of the two employees was tested, while the other was denied at the testing site because the employee was not a health care or emergency medical services worker, is younger than 60, and is not in critical condition, Whyte said.

Josh Meyerson, medical director of DHD No. 4, said Health Department officials are working with the company to identify anyone the infected contractor may have come in contact with, as well as coworkers of the current individuals who are sick.

If those contacted are sick, they will be told to isolate at home. If they had significant exposure with the infected person, they would be quarantined.

“We’re working with them and all the people who need to be contacted — that are potentially exposed — will be contacted through the investigation,” Meyerson said. “I don’t think at this time that we know of any other potential exposure in the community that people would need to be alerted to.”

Michigan’s latest figures updated Wednesday show no confirmed cases among residents of Alpena, Presque Isle, Montmorency, or Alcona counties. The statewide tally was nearly 2,300, with 43 deaths.

The United Mine Workers of America, which represents workers at Carmeuse, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Carmeuse Americas on Tuesday was informed that a contractor, who was on site at the Calcite operation in Rogers City between March 9 and 11, became ill after leaving the Calcite plant. The contractor sought medical treatment in Canada and on March 24 was confirmed to have COVID-19, a statement from the company said.

Two employees from the crew that worked alongside the contractor developed flu-like symptoms.

Whyte said self-quarantines began between March 18 and 22, when the impacted employees began showing symptoms. The quarantine will continue for 14 days.

The other members of the crew who came into contact with the contractor were not asked to self-quarantine because they are beyond the 14-day window when symptoms would show.

“In the meantime, we have been in close contact with McLaren Medical and following their advice, have asked those employees working closely with the self-quarantined employees to self-quarantine until the first of April as a precaution,” Whyte said in the press release. “We are relieved to report that our employees who are ill are doing well and are recovering at home, as is the contractor employee.”

Whyte said the company is working closely with the Health Department and following its recommendations. The company is also following all guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure the health and safety of its employees.

While no confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported in the four-county Alpena region, the number of positive cases in surrounding communities crept closer. Infections had previously been reported in Emmet and Otsego counties, while the first positive case in Iosco County was reported on Wednesday.

“It’s an elderly woman and she’s stable — thank goodness — at this time, and our thoughts go out to her and her family,” Denise Bryan, administrative health officer for the regional District Health Departments, said. “She has been in isolation for quite awhile and the nurses have been working with her and her family to do the epidemiological trace-back as to who those contacts are.”

“It’s definitely concerning to learn the first case of this virus has been confirmed in our community,” State Rep. Sue Allor, R-Wolverine, who serves Northeast Michigan, said in a statement Wednesday. “Every day, more and more positive cases are being identified, and it was only a matter of time before the virus would make its way here, too. I urge everyone to continue to practice social distancing, take the appropriate precautions such as hand washing, and most importantly — stay calm. I know it’s been difficult, but we will get through this together.”

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

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