|Worker Associated with Williams Construction Project Tests Positive for COVID-19|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
01:21AM / Thursday, March 26, 2020
|The north addition of Williams College's $204 million science center project is still under construction.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — An employee of one of the subcontractors on the Williams College's Science Center North Addition project has tested positive for COVID-19, the general contractor Wednesday informed those working at the site.
The college Wednesday said the person in question had not done work on the campus project.
On Wednesday afternoon, other workers were still on the job site, and the college has announced no plans to suspend work on the project.
Barr & Barr Inc., of New York, on Wednesday sent a message to all vendors and subcontractors associated with the project.
The one-page letter quotes a message Barr & Barr received at 7 a.m. Wednesday from Comalli Group, an electrical construction firm with offices in Pittsfield and Albany, N.Y.
"Yesterday, we learned that an employee in our service department tested positive with Covid-19 [sic]," the Comalli letter reads. "He has been in quarantine since Sunday, March 15th.
"Yesterday, out of an abundance of caution we recommended that anyone who had come in contact with this person stay home until Sunday, March 29th. This includes 2 people who have been on the Williams Project, neither of whom is symptomatic."
A Williams spokesperson said the Comalli employee who tested positive works in the firm's service department and had not been on the science center project site.
Additionally, Barr & Barr's letter said a second subcontractor, PDC, "advised one of its field tradesmen has a child at home with flu-like symptoms and the child is being tested."
The PDC worker in question is self-quarantined until the child's test results are back, Barr & Barr said.
The general contractor used the Wednesday letter to remind all on the project about its protocols for preventing spread of the novel coronavirus. Any worker should be tested and self quarantine if he or she: shows or reports flu-like symptoms; has recently been out of the country; or has personal contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
"You need to advise Barr & Barr ASAP if any of the above occur," the letter read.
Williams College Director of Media Relations Gregory Shook said the college is constantly reviewing its protocols for maintaining safety at the site.
"We're awaiting a plan from Barr and Barr for what action they would take assuming a positive case on their construction site, as well as a plan showing their actions in response to a more stringent approach from the Governor closing construction sites," Shook wrote Wednesday in reply to an email seeking comment.
Williams College was one of the first major employees in the area to order its employees to find work-from-home alternatives when it announced on March 12 that it was ending in-person classes after March 14 and moving to a remote learning model, sending its students home for the remainder of the semeter.
Although Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday issued an order closing all non-essential businesses in the commonwealth effective noon Tuesday, construction projects — private and public — are on the list of businesses deemed "essential."
The governor's office Wednesday issued guidance to municipalities about the "Essential Services Order" that discussed the status of construction projects and included four pages of guidelines and procedures for contractors must follow.
"The economic disruption and interruption in critical services and functions that could result from halting construction projects abruptly would be felt statewide and not simply in the locality where a particular project sits," wrote Robert C. Ross, the governor's chief legal counsel. "For these reasons, construction projects should continue as long as they observe social distancing protocols and otherwise can continue to operate safely."
Baker was asked about the provision for construction work in his news conference on Tuesday and addressed the topic again on Wednesday afternoon.
"There's no question if people are going to be working on construction, on job sites, they need access to sinks, warm water, hand sanitizer and a commitment to implementing the physical distancing and the social distancing," Baker said on Wednesday. "Local communities had made clear to us that they look forward to ensuring that the sites in their communities that are engaged in activity, live up to those standards and if they don't, they'll do something about it, which is exactly as it should be."
The state's guidelines for construction job sites open with an admonition in all capital letters: "ZERO TOLERANCE FOR SICK WORKERS REPORTING TO WORK. IF YOU ARE SICK, STAY HOME! IF YOU FEEL SICK, GO HOME! IF YOU SEE SOMEONE SICK, SEND THEM HOME!"
It continues to say that prior to every shift, each employee "will self-certify to their supervisor" that they don't have a fever, have not had "close contact" with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and have not been asked to self-isolate or quarantine by a doctor or local public health official.
Construction workers are required to maintain a 6-foot minimum distance from their co-workers, and "all surfaces should be regularly cleaned, including surfaces, door handles, laptops, etc.," the guidance reads. And each jobsite "should have laminated COVID-19 safety guidelines and handwashing instructions."
In addition, the commonwealth's guidelines state, on Page 4, "A site-specific COVID-19 Officer (who may also be the Health and Safety Officer) shall be designated for every site."
The guidance document -- which is legally mandated for publicly-funded projects -- concludes:
"The approved project Health and Safety Plan shall be modified to require that the contractor's site-specific project COVID-19 Officer submit a written daily report to the owner's representative. The COVID-19 Officer shall certify that the contractor and all subcontractors are in full compliance with these guidelines.
"Any issue of non-compliance with these guidelines shall be a basis for the suspension of work. ..."
Massachusetts Construction COVID-19 Guidance with Letter by iBerkshires.com on Scribd