The Largo branch of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration should shut down after an employee recently died of COVID-19 and four other workers tested positive, the Prince George’s County executive says.
Jyri Erik Kork was considered the life of his workplace at the Largo MVA branch, his stunned coworkers told News4.
“The person who passed was our jokester and we send our condolences to his family,” Walter Powell, an MVA employee and shop steward said.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said the facility, which remains open, should close for now.
“I would like to see it shut down until we can make everyone comfortable, including the employees who are there,” she said.
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The state did not tell her office about the outbreak at the MVA branch until Tuesday night, she said.
“If we knew about it, we absolutely would have notified the public. We don't want anyone in any space that is unsafe without their knowledge,” Alsobrooks said.
Workers at the Largo MVA branch did their own contact tracing to figure out there was a problem, said Stuart Katzenberg of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the largest union for state workers.
Our members started getting sick and called each other because they were not being contacted by the state or the state contract tracers,” he said.
“Our members have a right to know if they are working in a sick, dangerous workplace and that isn't happening,” Katzenberg added.
Kork’s coworkers are in self-quarantine after his unexpected death. Powell said he is among the workers staying home for now.
“I am terrified, along with my other employees who are terrified,” he said.
According to a Maryland Department of Transportation MVA spokesperson, the employee who most recently tested positive received their positive test result on Oct. 10. The employee last worked at the branch on Oct. 3.
Cleaning crews thoroughly cleaned and disinfected the Largo facility, the spokesperson said. The Largo branch remains open and customers and staff are required to wear face coverings and participate in a brief health screening and temperature scan when they enter.
“Contact tracing has been underway to determine others these individuals may have been in contact with, and they have been instructed to self-quarantine due to potential exposure,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
When News4 spoke with one would-be customer on Wednesday, he decided to leave after learning about Kork's death and the other diagnoses.
“If the situation causes them to be here, that's not right. They should close it down,” he said.
Katzenberg said there were still too many dangers for MVA employees.
“There has not been enough work done by the administration and MVA and every other facility to make it safe for state employees,” he said.
News4 asked the governor’s office for a comment and response to the union. A spokesperson said in a statement: "MVA is rigorously following all federal and state protocols, offering testing to all employees, conducting contacting tracing to determine close contacts and rerouting customers to other locations."