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State health worker tests positive for coronavirus, according to internal email

The KVUE Defenders obtained an email sent to Health and Human Services Commission employees that indicates an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

AUSTIN, Texas — The KVUE Defenders obtained an email on Thursday sent to employees at the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).

According to the email, a worker inside one of the HHSC buildings – described as the “East tower” – tested positive for the virus.

One floor of the building is closed while the tower and the break room are sanitized, according to the email.

The email also indicates another portion of the building – the “West tower” – will maintain regular operations.

RELATED: Some state workers not allowed to work from home, sparking frustration

Christine Mann, the spokesperson for HHSC, refused to confirm whether an employee has tested positive for the virus.

“Because this information is personal health information, HHSC is prohibited by law from releasing it,” Mann said in an email.

This all comes after several HHSC employees complained to the KVUE Defenders about how the state agency is responding to the coronavirus. Some have expressed concern that the agency is not letting enough people work from home. Others claimed HHSC doesn’t do enough to maintain a healthy and socially distant workplace.

RELATED: LIST: Confirmed Central Texas coronavirus cases by county

One person who works at the agency asked KVUE to withhold their name and job title for fear they would lose their job, but spoke out about their concerns on Thursday.

“Do I need to go and get tested?” HHSC’s employee asked. “Could I have possibly crossed paths with this person in a shared elevator or in the break room or anywhere in the building? We don’t have this information to be making informed decisions about our own health.”

The email sent to coworkers said the accounting department is shut down until April 22.

You can read the full statement from HHSC below:

"HHSC is taking every precaution we can to protect HHSC staff from the spread of COVID-19. The majority of HHSC employees who normally work in the Winters Building are teleworking and only those essential employees whose jobs cannot be done remotely are on site.

"If an employee who works on site receives a positive diagnosis of COVID-19, all employees who may have had exposure are notified and directed to monitor their health.

"Additional cleaning and sanitizing efforts began last month and continue. The facility is cleaned daily with continuous focus on common areas such as the restrooms, water fountains, elevators and breakroom. Surfaces in breakrooms and elevators are wiped down at least twice daily with disinfectants. Additional cleaning duties include wiping down individual work areas and copy machines, as well as extra vacuuming. Areas in which someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 has been will be closed for 14 days from last possible exposure."

RELATED: ATCEMS medic who tested positive for COVID-19 approved to return to work soon, along with others who have been self-isolating

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