Turner City Hall closes indefinitely after employee’s spouse tests positive for COVID-19

Turner City Hall (Courtesy/City of Turner)

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Turner City Hall will be closed indefinitely after a city employee’s spouse tested positive for COVID-19.

The city of about 2,200 is a few miles southeast of Salem.

City administrator David Sawyer said he made the decision Monday afternoon after learning of the positive test. City employees will continue working remotely and the city’s two police officers will remain on duty but won’t be in the building.

“We just felt this was the prudent measure at this time,” he said.

The employee’s spouse flew to Kansas late last week to visit a relative with no symptoms and fell ill there, Sawyer said. He was tested in Kansas and is being treated there.

Sawyer learned the man was ill and being tested for COVID-19 on Saturday. With no test results yet on Sunday, he said they decided to open city hall to employees only on Monday, anticipating they might need to close.

The city employee is working from home and neither she nor any other city workers have symptoms of illness, Sawyer said. He’s asking the city’s 10 employees to report how they’re feeling daily, he said.

The incubation period for the disease, meaning the time between when someone is infected and when they begin showing symptoms, is about five days on average, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine published March 10. But that period can be longer, up to about two weeks.

 Sawyer said he reported the case to the Marion County Health Department and Oregon Health Authority. He’s not sure whether the case has been counted in state’s tally of COVID-19 cases.

“Just getting people on the phone, to answer the phone was almost impossible yesterday,” he said.

The closure decision was made based on feedback from city employees and the public, not direction from a public health agency.

He’s now figuring out how city council meetings can be run so Turner can avoid large public gatherings but still allow public participation as decisions are being made, in compliance with the state’s open meetings law. The council’s next meeting is scheduled for April 13.

Sawyer said he’s hopeful city hall can be deep-cleaned and re-opened.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander at [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.