A truck enters the Lowe’s Regional Distribution Center on Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in east Cheyenne. After an employee at the distribution center tested positive for COVID-19, the facility closed Monday and reopened Tuesday. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – An employee at Lowe’s Distribution Center RDC 965 on Christensen Road in Cheyenne has tested positive for coronavirus, but the center has announced it will continue its operations.

According to an email from Sebastian Hale with Lowe’s Corporate Communications, the employee last reported to work last Thursday, April 2, and is currently quarantining.

“After following the preventative guidance by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the distribution center remains open,” Hale said. “The distribution center has been extensively cleaned per CDC guidelines.”

After an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, the CDC recommends that businesses close off areas visited by the ill persons, and open outside doors and windows and use ventilating fans to increase air circulation in the area. The CDC recommends waiting 24 hours, or as long as practical, before beginning cleaning and disinfection.

According to the CDC, cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas, such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment like tablets or remote controls used by the sick person, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces.

Lowe’s did not immediately respond to request for comment on the specific cleaning measures that have been enacted.

Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department Director Kathy Emmons said if a business has an employee test positive, the first step is to determine who that person came into contact with and to clean the facility. According to Emmons, the protocols and responses are no different, regardless of whether a company is large, like the distribution center, or small, with only a handful of employees.

“It still goes back to distancing, good hygiene and cleaning,” Emmons said.

A team of nurses in the county is helping track exposures and determining who each person might have had contact with. So any employees who feel they’re potentially at risk can call the health department for recommendations on the next steps, whether that’s isolation or quarantine.

Otherwise, “You want to make sure you’re doing a really good cleaning in that area to make sure that anything that person came into contact with has been cleaned well,” Emmons said.

Emmons also said reeducating employees on best practices is helpful under these circumstances, as well as making sure all staff members are following social distancing guidelines.

Another CDC recommendation is that employers reevaluate their sick leave policies to better protect the health and safety of workers.

Lowe’s recently changed its policy, granting 14 emergency sick days to employees if they need it, “whether that’s because they are feeling sick, caring for a loved one or because they have been faced with new hardships, such as closed schools and day cares,” according to the Lowe’s website.

For those with higher risks of illness from COVID-19, Lowe’s is offering extended emergency paid leave for up to four weeks. In the month of April, Lowe’s will also be paying employees an additional $2 an hour.

Better sick leave policies help ensure that employees won’t continue coming to work when sick because they need a paycheck.

The CDC also states, “Employers should not require a positive COVID-19 test result or a health care provider’s note for employees who are sick to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave or to return to work. Health care provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner.”

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

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