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McKenzie store closes after concerns raised by COVID-infected employee

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Exxon Food Shop in McKenzie has closed its doors temporarily after concerns were raised that employees working there had been exposed to the coronavirus.

Store manager Tonya Smith spoke with News-Leader staff last week after testing positive for COVID-19.

Smith said that she was in close, prolonged contact with most of the employees at that store in the days immediately before her positive test and that Romeo Shafi, supervisor over the McKenzie store and four stores in Shelby County, was not allowing those employees to take off work to quarantine themselves.

In a telephone interview Friday, Shafi said that he did not tell employees they could not take off, but he was requiring that they be showing symptoms and have themselves tested before taking two weeks of paid leave.

But in an email to Smith, Anna Todd, nurse supervisor at the Carroll County Health Department, stated: “Regarding your employees that have been within 6 feet of you for 10 min or longer since August 22, 2020 we are advising a 14-day quarantine from the last time they were in close contact with you. If ANY of your employees that were in close contact with you develop symptoms consistent with Coronavirus they would need to be excluded from work until they can be tested to determine if they too have COVID 19.”

Shelley Walker, director over the Office of Communications and Media Relations with the Tennessee Health Department, has advised that “[a]nyone who has come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 is instructed to stay home, or quarantine, for 14 days after their last contact with the case. ‘Close contact’ means being within six feet of a person for at least ten minutes while he or she was feeling sick or recently tested positive. Those living in a household with someone with COVID-19 are typically going to be close contacts, and like any close contact of a person with COVID-19, a household member must quarantine following contact to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

Smith said Monday that Shafi has since closed the McKenzie store for two weeks to have it professionally cleaned and disinfected and to give employees who have been exposed time to quarantine at home.

According to Smith, two employees were supposed to go get tested for the virus on Monday, but, as of Monday afternoon, she had not heard of any other employees testing positive.

Smith, who suffers from COPD and is currently self-quarantining at her home in Atwood, said she is experiencing symptoms, though at first she thought she just had a sinus infection.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires that employers with fewer than 500 employees provide up to two weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay when the employee is unable to work because he or she is quarantined under a government order or the advice of a health care provider, and/or is experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.

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