As a precaution, however, the man’s employer — ABB Manufacturing in Rogersville — shut down Tuesday and hired a contractor to scrub down and sterilize the plant.
The 25-year-old employee, who asked to remain unnamed, told the Times News he will be off work until April 5.
“We can confirm that an employee of the ABB Manufacturing facility in Rogersville, Tennessee, tested positive for COVID-19,” ABB Vice President of Communications Tracy Long told the Times News on Tuesday. “We have taken — and will continue to take — all necessary precautionary measures, following the applicable guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC).”
ABB is commonly referred to in Rogersville as the “Dodge Plant” and was previously known as Baldor. The plant currently employs approximately 230 people.
Long added, “While continuing to monitor the situation, we will keep updating our employees with further guidance as necessary and will take appropriate measures to mitigate the impact for our customers.”
Hawkins County Mayor Jim Lee told the Times News, “There is a confirmed case, and ABB did send everyone home. The Health Department will make the release tomorrow.”
The employee who tested positive is a member of the military who told the Times News he returned to Hawkins County from deployment in East Africa in October. He said the only other time he’s been out of the country was for a cruise to the Bahamas in December.
He agreed to answer some questions for the Times News on the condition of anonymity.
KTN: How do you think this happened?
“I honestly don't have a clue. I don't know where I've been that I could have caught it. I just done my normal routine of working and going to the gym. I don't know of anybody else who even has it.”
KTN: You came back home from deployment in October?
“Yes, I've been home since Oct. 26. I was in Djibouti in Africa. I went on a cruise in December, and when I got home I ended up getting the flu then, but since then I haven't had anything until I started feeling bad Friday.”
KTN: Where was your cruise?
“Down in the Bahamas and St. Thomas. British Virgin Islands. Tortola.”
KTN: You got tested Friday after you started feeling sick?
“I went and got tested for the flu and strep and they both tested negative, and then the word today was I'm positive (for COVID-19). I really didn't expect it because honestly, I felt bad Friday and Saturday, but I feel fine now. Since they swabbed me Friday I haven't been anywhere. I've just been staying in. I didn't want to make anybody else sick.”
KTN: After you came back positive did they give you any instructions on what you need to do?
Just stay in, and they contacted people that I work with and I'm around a lot and told them if they get symptomatic who they need to call and go get checked. They also told them to quarantine themselves as well right now just to make sure.
KTN: How many co-workers would you say you've been close enough to possibly pass it on to?
“I don't know. Maybe five or six. But I've talked to all of them, and none of them have felt bad or anything. They say stay 3-6 feet if you’re around them less than 10 minutes, and I don't know if I'm really that close to them for more than 10 minutes at a time. Hopefully none of them get anything.”
KTN: Did they shut the plant down?
“Apparently they shut it down, and they're going to go in there and really deep clean and try to sanitize everything really good. They asked me where I'd been in the plant the past few months and which doors I'd used. I just tried to give them the best info that I could remember.”
KTN: Do you feel any different?
“What's weird is the first two days I was sick I felt pretty rough, but it didn't feel any worse than what the flu would feel like. I didn't know for sure I had it, but I thought I might since I tested negative for flu. As of right now, though, I feel back to my normal self. It wasn't really that bad, knock on wood.”
KTN: But you're a carrier now?
“Yeah. That's the problem, so I'm self-isolating myself. I tried to stay away from people, even before I knew I was (COVID-19 positive).”
As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, the Tennessee Department of Health hadn’t updated its website with the addition of the Hawkins County case.
The state’s most recent tally for other area counties with confirmed cases includes: two in Sullivan, seven in Washington, two in Hamblen and five in Greene.
According to the Health Department, the public can access up-to-date information about COVID-19 from the following resources: Northeast Region Coronavirus Public Information Line (daily 8 a.m.-6 p.m.) at (423) 979-4689; Ballad Nurse Connect (24 hours/7 days) at 833-833-5523; ETSU Health Coronavirus Hotline (Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.) at (423) 433-6110; Virginia Department of Health Hotline 877-275-8343; and the Tennessee Public Hotline (Monday-Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.) at 877-857-2945.