RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A COVID-19 outbreak is leaving the Richmond Office of the General Registrar with a skeleton staff while they are still counting election results.
The outbreak could be linked to a member of Mayor Levar Stoney’s staff testing positive for the virus, causing the mayor to isolate. Mayoral Candidate Alexsis Rodgers is also isolating out of caution.
In a news conference Monday, General Registrar Kirk Showalter announced that three employees at the office have tested positive for COVID-19. All three of the employees work in the office’s main building on W. Laburnum Ave.
“We have had two positive cases of persons who were in the office last week,” Showalter said. The general registrar said she learned of those two cases on Friday. She was notified about the third case Monday morning.
The office is working with the Virginia Department of Health on contact tracing to determine points of possible exposure.
As a result, 90 percent of the registrar office’s staff, which is about 40 employees, has been asked to quarantine until Nov. 17.
According to Showalter, the last day that voters were able vote in-person at the registrar’s office was Oct. 31. She does not believe any voters were exposed.
“The one person that might have been in contact with voters indicates that they were not,” she said. However, Showalter encourages anyone who has been in the office and is experiencing symptoms or is concerned to get tested.
Currently, about four employees are able to come in to work in-person. “We do have a few staff members not impacted and they will be opening the office and working on a skeleton staff,” said Showalter.
Those four people identified themselves as not being in contact with any of the positive COVID-19 cases. According to Showalter, those staff members will continue to work, answering voter questions and assisting with provisional ballots when possible.
Showalter expects preliminary election results to be released Tuesday. However, because of the sudden outbreak, those numbers will not include 975 provisional ballots.
“I’ve been in contact with the Virginia Department of Elections and they will be assisting my office on researching those since my staff are not available to do that,” she said.
Staff members who were in close proximity with one of the employees with COVID-19 were notified Friday and asked to immediately leave the building.
One of those staff members in close proximity notified other employees about the positive case before management at the Office of the General Registrar alerted the full staff. Showalter said that person, “chose to alarm the rest of the staff before we had a chance to notify them.”
After a deep cleaning Saturday morning, some staff worked in the office throughout the day.
One of the positive employees returned to the office on Sunday. Showalter said that person was the only one in the office and the building was deep cleaned again before workers returned Monday.
Showalter added that the office has been following COVID-19 precautions, including social distancing and wearing face masks.
The general registrar also addressed concerns with ballots in the 8th District. She says that an error brought to their attention by city council candidate Amy Wentz is being corrected. Those results will also become more clear on Tuesday.
Watch the Office of the General Registrar’s full news conference below: