The Marshall County Fiscal Court Facebook page recently published a statement on behalf of Marshall County E-911 Director Chris Freeman. The statement was issued in response to the allegations made by a former employee, Maranda Hanson, reported in a WKMS article published on April 1.
In his statement, Freeman said he’s aware of the allegations made against his department and wants to reassure the public and county employees that, “to [his] knowledge, no 911 employee has tested positive for COVID-19.”
“Additionally, per information from the Marshall County Health Department, our department personnel has had no confirmed exposures to a positive COVID-19 case,” he added.
Freeman said his department has followed all recommendations of the Marshall County Health Department regarding proper procedure and protocol with respect to protecting the safety of the employees and visitors of Marshall County E-911.
The statement was issued the day after he declined to make a comment to WKMS in response to the allegations, saying he had been advised by legal counsel not to do so.
Marshall County Health Department Public Services Manager Jennifer Brown said she’s bound by law from releasing any identifying information but she was able to confirm Freeman contacted her prior to March 23 about an employee. She said the health department provided guidelines based on those set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and to the best of the health department’s knowledge, those guidelines were followed.
The email Hanson sent to Freeman references two dispatchers, Brown said the health department has only been made aware of one.
Brown said regarding whether or not an employer tells its employees is not a matter of HIPAA--only healthcare providers are bound by HIPAA. She did say it’s the responsibility of the health departments to track and notify contacts who’ve potentially been exposed.
Brown also acknowledged the health department has to work with the information they’re given when making recommendations, which requires the person with whom they’re speaking to be completely honest. She said if a person who has been exposed is not truthful about a timeline, they could put others at risk.
Something important for the community at large to remember, Brown said, is that the date of received test results is not indicative of how long a person should quarantine but rather the date when a person starts showing symptoms, or was last in direct contact with a person who is confirmed positive.
For instance, she said, a patient in the western Kentucky region who tested positive for COVID-19 was able to return to work four days after receiving those results. She said the test results didn’t come back until 10 days after the sample was collected, a timespan which is not abnormal while labs are bombarded, so they only had four more days of quarantine to meet CDC guidelines.
“Once you’re exposed, if you get 14 days out from that and you’re not having any symptoms, you’re good,” she added. “And that’s based on the CDC guidelines.”
There are many caveats which factor into making a clinical determination regarding who may be a threat to the community at large and who may not, Brown said. But she said the key factors are: has the person in question been in direct contact with someone who has tested positive; has it been 14 days since that contact was made; and is the person exhibiting symptoms.
Brown said, in general, it’s the responsibility of the health departments to figure out through contact tracing who needs to be notified. She said if it’s an employee who has a family member who is positive, there’s no need for the entire workplace to know that if that employee is not showing symptoms, is not the person who tested positive and has not been in direct contact with that family member in 14 days or more.
WKMS filed an open records request with Marshall County E-911, Marshall County Fiscal Court and the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office for:
--Any forwarding of the email initially sent by Hanson, from Freeman to any other county employees/officials and exchanged conversations regarding his intended response;
--Any emails exchanged between Freeman and Judge-Executive Kevin Neal and/or Deputy Judge-Executive Brad Warning regarding Hanson's email and the response to that email.
The request also sought emails exchanged between Freeman and other department heads whose employees regularly visit the dispatch center and might have been exposed, a log of dispatchers and county employees who worked in dispatch between March 19 and March 26 and the write-up reflecting the alleged confrontation between Freeman and Hanson on March 23.
Warning, who manages all open records requests for the county said in a written response:
“Due to the storage location of these records, it cannot be determined at this time if records responsive to your request are in existence and possessed by the Marshall County Fiscal Court . However, I have initiated a search to determine if records responsive to your request are in existence and possessed by the Marshall County Fiscal Court. The information will be released to you, to the extent the records are in existence and possessed by Marshall County Fiscal Court and required under the Kentucky Open Records Act, upon completion of the review.”
Warning stated WKMS should receive the documents requested or a written response regarding the status of the request on or by May 2, 2020.
Marshall County Sheriff Eddie McGuire provided an email issued by Freeman on March 24, 2020, the day after the alleged confrontation with Hanson.
The email reads: “I first want to say that we appreciate all of our partner agencies and enjoy the face to face conversations and interactions with you all, but to ensure the safety of 911 personnel and your personnel we will limiting access to the 911 center until after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. We must do this to ensure we are able to provide 911 services to the citizens of Marshall County and dispatch services to the responding agencies. Any information that agencies we will be able to get to them from the window in the lobby or via fax and email. Again we are doing this in hopes of limiting exposure to both your staff and ours. Please pass this information on to all of your personnel. If at any time you need anything else please do not hesitate to let me know.”
Hanson, who worked at Marshall County E-911 for five years, said her employment was terminated after she sent an email to Freeman expressing concern about a coworker whose family member had recently tested positive for COVID-19. She said that employee took off the day the test results came back positive for the employee’s family member, then returned to work the next day--working in close proximity with Hanson for half of her shift on March 20.
Hanson said she issued the email to Freeman expressing her concern on March 21 and received a response March 23. She said she was called into Freeman’s office where he told her he was suspending her for three days, without pay, citing insubordination as the reason.
Hanson contends she and her fellow employees should have been notified they needed to take extra precautions. She also contends that employee should have been required to stay home from work for the recommended 14 days.
Hanson’s attorney, Marilyn “Linsey” Shrewsbury, said the lawsuit will, at minimum, cite violation of a number of Kentucky Revised Statutes as well as an executive order issued by Gov. Andy Beshear and the Kentucky Tort Law “which addresses the grossly negligent actions taken by Marshall County as it relates to this matter.”
Click here to read the entire article first published on April 1 by WKMS about the pending lawsuit.