312 Black Construction employees test Covid positive
A total of 312 employees of Black Construction have tested positive for Covid-19 and the number is expected to surge further as contact tracing and testing continue.
"All of our positive cases have been isolated," Leonard Kaae, the company’s vice president and general manager, said at Monday's press conference.
Kaae said Black Construction has 1,300 employees, including nearly 600 H2B and local workers, subcontractors and vendors at different job sites.
"In March of this year, we recognized the importance of protecting our workforce and as a result we have developed a very robust, rigid protocol program [dedicated to] keeping our workers safe, healthy and able to return to work daily,” Kaae said.
“Due to our practices we were able to keep our workforce safe for a period of near eight months. It was challenging. However, we did have an infection that evolved into the situation we have today."
All construction activities have been suspended since the cluster was first reported over the weekend. Black Constuction on Sunday reported 22 positive employees at one of its barracks.
After the first case was discovered on Oct. 24, nearly 500 local employees, H2B workers, and contractors who worked in close association with Black Construction within their various worksites around the island were tested.
Of those who have been tested, 312 have come back positive.
Dr. Hoa Nguyen with the American Medical Center, who currently serves as expert medical aide to the company, shares some statistics concerning this cluster. "An overwhelming majority of these positive cases are asymptomatic with little more than 20, less than 30 showing mild symptoms--and one in the hospital as of today."
Answering a question from the media, Kaae detailed the strict protocols that kept his workforce Covid free during the previous months.
"We have 24 hour security," he said. "Since March 18th, we've had our H2s locked down. They're allowed to go to work and come back to the barracks and not receive any visitors and not leave the barracks."
Nguyen said the first case was a local worker and contact tracing began swiftly after the detection of the positive case. Those in direct contact with the individual were isolated, he added.
“This is considered a cluster. It involves workers and they don’t go out and interact with the community, so the chances of them spreading in the community are minimal,” Nguyen said.
This is further bolstered by the fact that many of the company's jobsites reside in sequestered parts of the island, within industrial parks, or on military facilities such as firing ranges.
Currently all operations of Black Construction have ceased until further notice, although they are currently the only construction company that has temporarily closed due to an outbreak within their workforce.
"Yesterday was a testament of t private company who stepped forward like others have, to be part of the solutions in our fight against Covid-19," Public Health Director Arthur San Agustin said. "Hopefully the swift actions and strict stipulations by DPHSS and Black Construction that have prevented a major community outbreak serve as a model for the private sector and individual citizens alike in our continued fight against the virus."
Black Construction, a subsidiary of Tutor Perini Corp., currently has three major contracts with the Navy. These are the $75-million P-715 Live Firing Range ($75 million); P-250 MALS & P-260 Corrosion Control Hangar ($82 million); and Andersen Replace Housing Project ($178 million).