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Roper employee Victoria Morgan is working behind a Lexan plastic barrier at the plant. She is also wearing a mask, safety glasses and gloves to perform her job. / Contributed photo from Roper

This story was updated at 3:28 p.m. on Friday, May 15, 2020, with more information.

GE Appliances' Roper oven-making plant in LaFayette, Georgia, has had an employee test positive for COVID-19, a company spokeswoman said Friday.

Julie Wood, senior director of corporate communications for GE Appliances, said that after thorough contact tracing, no co-worker quarantines were required.

"Due to privacy concerns, we can't name specific individuals or share details of their medical circumstances," she said.

The spokeswoman said the positive test result at the plant was shared with the workforce and public health officials.

"We shared this with (workers) so that they will have the most accurate information about health concerns at the plant," Wood said. "We understand it's an unsettling time in our country and commit to being as transparent as we can during this time of crisis."

She said that GE Appliances "has completed significant work to modify its factories and how work is done in them to protect employees."

"Our first priority has been to modify our jobs and work spaces to allow for six feet of space between employees as they work, which was necessary in only about 30% of positions," Wood said.

The company's plant in LaFayette has been the site of worker complaints over conditions at the 2,000-employee facility.

Tricia Harris, a Walker County resident who is the executive aide to former United States ambassador and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, said in April that she had heard from relatives who work at the plant and seen employee worries on social media about close working conditions.

"They should close the plant," she said. "They're putting people at risk. I don't want anyone to die."

Harris, in an email to GE Appliances CEO Kevin Nolan, requested an "immediate shut down" of the facility. An online petition on Change.org calling for the closure has garnered more than 1,800 signatures.

But, Dr. Gary Voccio, health director for the Georgia Department of Public Health's Northwest Health District who toured Roper in April in response to complaints, said it seemed the company was responsibly doing about all it could to prevent workplace exposures, reduce the potential for transmission among employees, and maintain a healthy business operation and work environment.

"No place, no course of action is 100% 'safe' during the worse pandemic since 1918," said Voccio. "We must all assume there's some degree of risk wherever we are, whatever we're doing, and take personal responsibility to take every precaution, no matter how small or demanding, to make ourselves and others as safe as possible."

On Friday, Wood said that wearing face masks while in Roper became mandatory on April 27.

Wood said that walkways and other areas where individuals may congregate throughout company plants have been marked off with 6-foot measurements.

"We conduct audits to monitor social distancing, address issues as employees arrive, and ensure continuous improvement in this area," Wood said.

Also, every person entering Roper must go through temperature screening, she said.

"Anyone exhibiting signs of illness, such as fever and respiratory symptoms, is required to stay home from work and seek medical care," Wood said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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