COVID-19 infections among Luzerne County employees draw concerns from union

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — For the third time in less than a week, a Luzerne County employee has tested positive for the coronavirus. Now, some employees are questioning the way the county is handling the COVID-19 situation in recent days.

County employees we spoke with did not want to appear on camera but expressed serious concerns about their safety here at the courthouse and other county buildings.

“Well, the employees are very very scared at this point,” said Paula Schnelly.

Schnelly is president of the union that represents more than 300 Luzerne County employees. Most of them work at the main courthouse and Penn Place. She says employees are telling her they don’t feel safe.

All of this comes after word broke last week that Judge William Amesbury and a sheriff’s deputy tested positive for COVID-19. Penn Place was closed and cleaned, as were parts of the main courthouse where the deputy worked.

Wenesday, word of another employee that tested positive for COVID-19. County leaders ordered restricted access to the main courthouse and Penn Place as 12 sheriff’s deputies are on self-quarantine for two weeks.

But, Schnelly questions the timing of the action.

“I’m just going to say it. It’s a day late and a dollar short because right now if there was any spread of the virus it may have actually occurred and quarantining, which is absolutely useful by all means, it may be a little too late,” said Schnelly.

Eyewitness News talked with County Manager Dave Pedri about those concerns.

“We follow all CDC guidelines,” Luzerne County Manager Dave Pedri said. “We’ve gone above and beyond exactly what they are telling us to do. We are working with employees they have been doing a great job. We followed exactly the steps we have to follow.”

Pedri insists that the county works with the available information on a day-to-day basis and that’s why officials felt the need to basically shut the operations down to restrict access to county offices on Wednesday.

The county courts and county offices will be closed to public access until August 3rd.

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