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Negative tests coming in as COVID-19 hits News, Enterprise office

Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Lake Placid News office in Saranac Lake (News photo — Andy Flynn)

SARANAC LAKE — An Adirondack Daily Enterprise reporter who interviewed voters on Election Day has tested positive for COVID-19, and much of the newspaper’s staff has been placed on quarantine until Nov. 17.

Six other staff members who work at the Enterprise and Lake Placid News office in Saranac Lake and were exposed to the reporter have now been ordered to quarantine by either the Franklin or Essex County health departments.

The Enterprise and News will continue to publish, both in print and online.

The reporter who tested positive learned of the potential exposure as the paper was being sent to press on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 3. The reporter and another staff member received a message from a friend with whom they had socialized over the prior weekend outside the office, saying that friend tested positive for COVID-19.

Since then, those two staff members have been quarantined at home, only leaving home to get tested Friday, Nov. 6 at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake. They received their test results Sunday, Nov. 8. One, the reporter, was positive; the other was negative.

Test results for three other staffers in quarantine came back negative on Wednesday, Nov. 11, and the results from the remaining two in quarantine were not known by press time.

The one who tested positive felt slight symptoms Thursday, Nov. 5, such as a headache and sore throat, but those quickly went away and may have been exacerbated by a shortage of sleep on election night.

The reason the test was done Friday, instead of the day after learning of the possible exposure, is that the virus is usually not detectable by tests until about a week after infection. Even though the virus can be running through one’s body and can be contagious, a test usually cannot catch it until it accumulates to a certain degree in the spot where they swab for it. Local health officials recommend waiting about a week from the point of possible contact with an infected person before getting tested.

That was the advice county health departments and the staff of AMC’s COVID clinic gave the Enterprise. Other staff members were tested Monday, Nov. 9, six or seven days after contact with their infected co-worker. The Essex and Franklin County health departments conducted contact tracing Monday, Nov. 9.

Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn was not ordered to quarantine since he did not have direct contact with the reporter diagnosed with COVID-19; however, he was also tested for the disease on Monday as a precaution and is working from home. His test result came back negative Wednesday.

The newspapers generally do not identify people infected with COVID-19 unless the person agrees to be interviewed. For public safety’s sake, however, the Enterprise is saying that on Election Day, that reporter interviewed voters at three polling places: at the St. Armand Town Hall in Bloomingdale between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., the North Elba Town House in Saranac Lake around noon, and the Holy Ghost Parish Center in Tupper Lake between 5 and 6 p.m.

The reporter was double-masked, wearing a surgical mask underneath a bandanna. Nevertheless, the Enterprise and Lake Placid News recommend that anyone who interacted in person with this reporter at these polling places on Nov. 3 be tested for COVID-19.

The COVID clinic behind AMC is open from noon to 4 p.m. every weekday. Appointments are requested; call 518-897-2462 to make one. There is no direct cost to the person being tested, but Adirondack Health will collect health insurance information and bill insurance companies. Insurance companies are not currently allowed to charge co-pays or deductibles for COVID-19 testing.

Mountain Medical Urgent Care also does COVID-19 tests, as do Elizabethtown Community Hospital and the Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone.

Most newsroom employees who were ordered to quarantine are working from home. Other quarantined employees cannot work.

The Enterprise and News are taking other internal precautions as well. In the spring, the office installed shields around desks, and since the spring it has required all employees to wear masks in the office except when working alone at their desks, to further block potential infection. The newspaper also still requires visitors to its office to ring its doorbell for service at the front entrance rather than letting them enter the building. The limited visitors allowed into the building have been required to sign in for contact tracing purposes.

The newspapers recommend that everyone in the Tri-Lakes area follow basic precautions widely recommended by local, state, federal and global health officials: Keep 6 feet apart from those outside your household, wear a mask whenever that’s not possible, wash your hands frequently, and avoid gathering with others.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise’s reporters will not be able to work out in the field until at least Nov. 17. They will work from home by phone, email and other means.

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(Staff Writer Elizabeth Izzo and Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn contributed to this report.)