Atlanta city worker who distributed laptops being tested for virus

Hundreds of Atlanta city employees who picked up laptops at City Hall so they could work from home received three contradictory instructions Wednesday about how to respond after a person who helped distribute the devices showed symptoms of the coronavirus.

A city-wide memo was sent at 1:42 p.m. Wednesday announcing that an employee who helped distribute laptops to the law department was being tested for the virus and that anyone who obtained a laptop at City Hall last week should quarantine themselves for 14 days.

Ninety minutes later, another email said to disregard that message.

Then around 10 p.m., Interim Human Resources Commissioner Jeffrey B. Norman issued a third memo over citywide email confirming that the employee was being evaluated for the virus, and if others started to experience symptoms to contact their health care professional immediately.

“Although the employee did not have broad contact with everyone on-site, out of an abundance of caution, we are notifying all employees,” Norman wrote.

As of Thursday afternoon, the city had not indicated if the person has tested positive for the virus.

Last week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that city employees complained that supervisors were giving contradictory messages about who must report to City Hall or could work from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

One employee in the planning department said workers were mandated to come into the office because the department didn’t have enough laptops for teleworking.

“It’s a deserted ghost town and we are the only ones here,” said the employee, who asked not to be name out fear of being fired.

The city had already ordered hundreds of laptops and shortly after the employees’ complaint, began handing them out on staggered basis to limit the number of people picking them up at one time.

A spokesman for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms declined to comment beyond the information in Norman’s latest memo, which suggested that employees would be notified of the test results of the person being evaluated for the virus.

“More information will be shared with you once received,” it said.

On Monday, Bottoms' spokesman Michael Smith announced through a text message that an employee who works in City Hall's lone snack shop had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The store has been closed since March 12 “for unrelated reasons,” according to the message. But city still urged anyone who visited the store and had symptoms of the virus to contact a medical professional.