UPDATED: Bank employees newest island COVID cases

The bank was first locked and dark last Friday afternoon.

No lights appeared to be on inside the bank Friday and there was no answer when a customer knocked on the door (Elizabeth Shepherd Photo).

No lights appeared to be on inside the bank Friday and there was no answer when a customer knocked on the door (Elizabeth Shepherd Photo).

Two employees of Chase Bank on Vashon have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the spouse of one of the employees who has been sickened by the virus.

The spouse — who The Beachcomber will not name or identify by gender for reasons of privacy — said that their spouse and other employees at the bank had learned on Monday that another worker at the bank, who does not live on Vashon, had tested positive for the virus.

On Wednesday, the second employee — an island resident who had begun to experience symptoms of COVID-19 — was tested, with positive results coming back on Friday.

The spouse of the sickened island worker said that the bank’s lobby remained open to the public on Monday and Tuesday, and workers were not sent home after learning the first staff member had tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, the spouse said they believed that the bank’s drive-through window remained open through Thursday.

At 3 p.m. Friday, The Beachcomber visited the bank and saw a sign on the door, explaining that the lobby was closed but directing customers to the drive-through window. Several cars were lined up in the drive-through, with drivers getting out to consult with each other as to why the line wasn’t moving.

No lights appeared to be on inside the bank and there was no answer when a customer knocked on the door.

By Monday, a sign had appeared at both the front door of the bank and on the drive-through window, saying the bank was closed due to an emergency. Customers were directed to online banking resources and to Chase’s website to find nearby ATM/branch locations.

Dr. Jim Bristow and Dr. Zach Miller, of Vashon Medical Reserve Corps, declined to give any information about the case on Vashon, saying that all information collected for COVID-19 screenings as well as test results are protected information and are treated confidentially by COVID-19 screeners and the Medical Reserve Corps.

However, Bristow urged islanders who have concerns about possible exposure to COVID-19 to call their health care providers or the Medical Reserve Corps at 844-469-4554.

“An exposure is face-to-face contact at less than 6 feet for more than 10 minutes,” said Bristow. “You can imagine many interactions in a bank would not fulfill those criteria, but some certainly might.”

On July 24, in a situation report, Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) confirmed public reports that two employees at a local bank branch had tested positive for COVID-19. The announcement said contact tracing of people who may have been exposed would be done by the state Department of Health. Additionally, it said that the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps had offered support to one of the patients so the patient could alert people who may have been exposed and direct them to the MRC contact line to receive medical advice and schedule testing if necessary.

EOC’s communication about the case came before the number of positive cases on Vashon had risen on the Public Health – Seattle and King County (PHSKC) dashboard. However, Rick Wallace, manager of EOC, said that in this case, EOC had felt it prudent to get the word out before the cases filtered up to the state database and then in turn appeared on the PHSKC dashboard.

On Monday, the dashboard clicked up to show one additional positive case. (Of the two Chase cases, only one would be reflected on the dashboard, as cases are reported by zip code and the other patient lives off-island.)

The Beachcomber contacted Chase Bank media representatives Darcy Donahoe-Wilmot, Stephanie Bosch and Amy Bonitatibus by email with numerous questions about the branch’s protocols and response to confirmed infections among its staff on Vashon.

The Beachcomber asked for confirmation on the timing of the closure of the bank, whether the bank had been cleaned after one staff member tested positive and another became symptomatic, and why the decision had been made to keep the staff in place after the first confirmed case.

The Beachcomber also requested contact information for the regional branch manager in charge of decision-making at the branch following the confirmation of both cases, and information about Chase’s general protocols in dealing with confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff at branch locations.

In response, Donahue-Wilmot said that Chase was “looking into the matter to ensure that the proper procedures were followed.”

She also provided a list of Chase’s general protocols, that read in its entirety:

“We don’t comment on presumed cases due to privacy issues; Where we have confirmed or presumed cases we take enhanced cleaning measures and also require people with contact to quarantine at home; We continue to encourage anyone who is sick in any way to call their manager and not come to work; We have developed an enhanced cleaning processes to help reduce the spread of germs and viruses, and placed alcohol-based hand sanitizer at all main areas in the branches.”

Later, Donahue-Wilmot clarified that the length of time Chase required employees to quarantine after contact with a confirmed or presumed case was 14 days.

In the immediate days after the second case had been confirmed on Vashon, islanders took to social media to discuss their interactions with staffers at the bank in recent weeks. On a lengthy Facebook thread about the cases at Chase, several islanders said they were customers of the bank, and had not been contacted by the bank about the situation.

Two other islanders posted that they had recently opened accounts at the bank, working with a female staff member who was not masked.

When asked by The Beachcomber to explain Chase’s protocols regarding unmasked employees interacting with the public, Donahue-Wilmot replied that one employee at the bank has a mask exemption, and added that Chase has installed protective plastic around its teller windows and requires six feet of social distancing for all people in the branch.

The Beachcomber has also reached out to King County Public Health officials for commentary on the case and has not heard back.

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