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BELEN—Some of Belen City Hall employees are back to work after being evacuated and sent home Friday morning after a possible exposure of COVID-19.

Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova said an employee’s son, who lives in Arizona, tested positive for the novel coronavirus either late Thursday, March 19, or the morning of Friday, March 20. The employee’s wife had traveled to visit her son, and returned home Wednesday, March 18.

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Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova

The employee went to work Thursday, but when he was told about the positive test result on Friday morning, he immediately called Belen City Manager Andrew DiCamillo and informed him of the situation, and did not go to work Friday.

Fifteen minutes after being informed, DiCamillo and Cordova made the decision to shut down city hall, and asked all employees to vacate the premises and quarantine themselves at home.

Cordova said the employee and his spouse are not showing any symptoms of COVID-19. According to the mayor, the state has declined to test them for the virus. The city has asked the employee to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“As far as I know, the son’s symptoms are mild,” the mayor said. “He had been out of country on a company trip.”

Belen City Hall had been closed to the public since Tuesday, March 17, and several employees had been working remotely.

When asked if the employee had a lot of interaction with other city employees on Thursday, Cordova said he was involved in a meeting at city hall with other city officials as well as others with the state of New Mexico, all of whom have been informed of the possible exposure.

City hall was fully disinfected Friday, allowing for a number of limited staff — no more than three people in the building at any one time — to work this week. They have also been instructed to keep a 6-foot distance from one another, said DiCamillo.

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Andrew DiCamillo

Belen city manager

The city manager is one of the employees who is working from home in Aztec, as he and his wife are waiting for their child to be born.

“Normally, I could rotate in and out, because a majority of my position is to meet with people,” he said.

While city services are continuing from behind the scenes, the city has set up a hotline number — 966-2725 — which will be answered by a city employee, and the mayor and some members of the city council will be taking shifts.

Belen Hotline

DiCamillo said residents can call in if they have questions or concerns, such as a need for food and transportation, and will be given information or referred to the appropriate agency.

“We need everyone in Belen to stick together, to be cautious,” Cordova said. “If they don’t need to be out and about around town, they need to stay home as much as possible. Right now, the goal is to limit all community spread. We want to make sure we’re not passing it along.

“Most importantly, sometimes people who have it don’t know they have it because they’re not experiencing symptoms,” he said. “It’s very important that we socially distance and stay the 6 feet away from everyone.”

Editor/Publisher

Clara Garcia is a native of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. She is the president of the New Mexico Newspaper Association, and is a member of the Pilot Club of Belen.

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