Michael McNickle, who as public health director has led Clatsop County’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, said he tested positive for the virus.

“It’s a teachable moment because it shows that anybody can get COVID,” he said.

Clatsop County Public Health Department

An employee at the Clatsop County Public Health Department has tested positive for the coronavirus.

McNickle, who said he is asymptomatic, is convalescing at home. He described the test result as shocking since he said he has had little contact with others.

He said he took a polymerase chain reaction test a couple of weeks ago, which came back negative. He said he has been out of the office preparing for a surgery when he was given a rapid test before the operation and tested positive.

McNickle said because the rapid tests have a higher false positive rate, he plans on taking another polymerase chain reaction test on Friday to determine whether the rapid test result is accurate.

“When all this started, I’ve been able to avoid getting it — even though all of our staff and others have been exposed to COVID all the way till June — from doing protective measures like washing hands, wearing masks, getting away from large gatherings,” he said. “So I’ve been following my own guidance and it worked pretty well up until Monday.”

The county announced on Thursday that an employee at the Public Health Department had tested positive for the virus but did not publicly identify McNickle. The director confirmed the diagnosis after being contacted by The Astorian.

Because of precautions taken by the Public Health Department, the county expects to have limited any exposure and is confident no patients have been placed at risk.

The public health clinic will be closed until next week for deep cleaning.

“In an abundance of caution, the department canceled all patient appointments, shut its offices down for a deep cleaning and tested employees on Wednesday ... The department has been in close contact with the state epidemiologist’s office at the Oregon Health Authority to determine next steps,” the county said in a statement.

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.

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