Please note: THIS INFORMATION IS NO LONGER ACCURATE–As of March 20, four cases have been confirmed. See Friday’s story here.
By Tom Travis and Jan Worth-Nelson
After a wild day of rumors and intense media scrutiny, as of late Thursday afternoon, the Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) confirmed no cases of the coronavirus have yet been documented in the county.
A person who answered the phone for Gary Johnson, GCHD medical director, took EVM‘s contact information for updated contact but said the department could not verify a case.
A person in the GCHD’s communicable disease department, working alone in an otherwise closed office and who did not want to be named, also said they were not aware of a case of COVID-19, stating, “As far as I’m aware, we’ve got nothing — and believe me, if anybody would know about it, it would be us. We’re working on this day and night.”
He said he suspected many were confused by internet entries showing emergence of the virus in another Genesee County, in New York state.
Rumors circulated widely Thursday morning that the first case of the coronavirus, COVID-19, had been diagnosed in Genesee County and was the mother of a person who works in the Dryden Building, headquarters of Skypoint Ventures.
Reached by phone, State Representative Sheryl Kennedy (48th District) stated there are still no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Genesee County. Kennedy said she had just got off the phone with a person in U.S. Representative Dan Kildee’s office who said any rumor that a person in Flint had the diagnosis is false.
Kennedy did report that the number of COVID-19 cases has risen by 250 in the state of Michigan, for a total of 350 reported cases.
Hurley confirms no patient with the coronavirus
EVM reached out to Hurley Medical Center’s Administrator of Marketing and Public Relations Laura Jasso for clarification because it was rumored the patient had been taken to Hurley. Jasso confirmed there is no COVID-19 patient at Hurley. Jasso also said that she just got off the phone with the Genesee County Health Department who confirmed with her that there are ‘zero’ cases of diagnosed COVID-19 in the county.
Meanwhile, though the rumor proved to be false, the Dryden Building has been closed, and there is no mention of the virus on a sign on the door of the building. A security guard staffing the site confirmed the building had been closed but did not know specifics about any coronavirus connection.
Rep. Kildee’s office is in the Dryden Building
One reason the rumors caught fire in town is that the offices of U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee are on the fourth floor of the Dryden Building. A Kildee spokesman said this morning Rep. Kildee, along with all his staff, including those in his Washington office, are teleworking, “following the social distancing guidelines.” Kildee is working from his home in Flint, the spokesman said.
On background, a source in Washington familiar with the situation said the attending physician to the House of Representatives has advised that indirect contact with other members are considered at low risk for the virus, and testing for a representative demonstrating no symptoms is considered unnecessary at this time.
Speaking on background, an unnamed source stated not for attribution that Kildee is not displaying any symptoms and has not been tested.
This story will be updated if more facts emerge.
EVM Staff Writer and Assistant Editor Tom Travis can be reached at email@example.com. EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.