- A call center trainee for a company contracted by the Center for Disease Control tested positive for the coronavirus, several news outlets reported.
- Another trainee told NBC that the orientation they attended did not abide by social distancing protocols and the people were crammed together.
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A trainee for call center contracted by the Center for Disease Control told NBC News that the company did not follow social distancing protocols. Another trainee later tested positive for the coronavirus.
Brianna Flores told NBC News that she felt she could do some good working for Maximus, a call center contractor to provide callers with information on the new coronavirus for the CDC. However, she became worried when she attended the first day of orientation and the training class of 70 was crammed into a tight space together — without enough space to abide by the six feet recommendation by the CDC, and with only a bottle of disinfectant to share to clean their workspaces.
“But there were no social distancing precautions taken,” she said to NBC News. “We were all talking about it. We were all saying somebody was going to come down with it.”
A few days after her orientation, Flores went into a two-week quarantine because another trainee tested positive for the coronavirus. She told NBC News she found the situation ironic since she was being trained to give nervous callers accurate information on the coronavirus.
The center is located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and local outlet Hattiesburg American initially reported that a trainee at the facility tested positive for coronavirus, which prompted Maximus to have the facility deep cleaned. The company informed the staff of the positive case on March 29.
“Access to the site will be limited to allow sanitation to occur and in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, We will suspend on-site operations until cleaning is complete,” the company told the local paper on March 31.
After the trainee tested positive, CEO Bruce Caswell issued a statement that said employees could work from home and said those impacted by the coronavirus can apply for paid time off. Additionally, those who can’t work from home will be required to wear face coverings on site.
“In Hattiesburg, we are requiring all employees to wear face coverings when not taking phone calls,” chief Maximus spokeswoman Lisa Mile told NBC News. “Across all of our US operations, we are asking employees working in the office to wear face coverings. To this end, the Company has been awaiting fulfillment of 725,000 face coverings and some of these will arrive at our offices this week but there continues to be supply chain challenges.”
The Communications Workers of America, which works to unionize call center workers, told NBC News that Maximus must honor their commitment to protecting workers.
“If our tax dollars are being sent to a for-profit private contractor to inform the public about how to protect themselves from COVID-19, that company absolutely must take care of its workers and their safety,” union president Chris Shelton told NBC News.
“I do think that Maximus should stay open because it provides vital information,” Flores said to NBC News. “But it gets paid with taxpayer dollars, it should be held to a higher standard. It should be doing more to protect the workers.”
Maximus did not reply to Business Insider’s request for comment at the time of publication.