The gist: The mayor-president is in quarantine after a direct exposure to KLFY anchor Dalfred Jones, who tested positive for the coronavirus Friday, the day he emceed the swearing in of Lafayette City Marshal Reggie Thomas at the Heymann Center.
A casual Facebook comment from Jones triggered a chain of calls three days after the event that ultimately led to contact tracing and Guillory’s quarantine. The anchor replied to a post in the Lafayette Memories Facebook group questioning his absence from the airwaves and noted he tested positive for the virus. That comment has since been deleted.
The comment circulated to Thomas, and the new marshal immediately contacted public health officials. Thomas and his family members tested negative and were not deemed close contacts (Thomas used a different podium when he gave his remarks); The Current was unable to determine whether anyone else was told to quarantine. Jones shared the podium to the left of the stage with various speakers Friday; everyone was masked throughout the event, except when formally speaking.
It’s unclear whether Jones took any contact tracing steps on his own. Thomas tells The Current that Jones did not notify him about having taken a Covid test before the event, nor did he tell him about the positive test result after.
On Monday, still unaware that he’d been exposed to Jones Friday, Guillory attended the swearing in of 15th Judicial District Attorney Don Landry at a packed ceremony in Scott with many attending unmasked.
The mayor-president did not name Jones in a press release announcing his quarantine Wednesday afternoon. The release notes that a “local media” person seated next to him had a direct exposure to someone who was Covid-positive last week and was supposed to still be in quarantine per CDC guidelines. The mayor-president was seated right next to him on and off for more than an hour at Thomas’s event.
The mayor says he was contacted by Dr. Tina Stefanski, the region’s top public health official, about the potential exposure Tuesday afternoon and told to quarantine until Jan. 16 at a minimum. Guillory needs two negative tests, the second 48 hours after the first, to return to his office.
For his part, the mayor appears to be taking this exposure more seriously than he did in October, when one of his key staff members tested positive for the deadly virus. At the time, the administration declined to discuss any details. LCG spokesman Jamie Angelle is also in quarantine.
Reached Tuesday, Jones said he would have to get with his news director to clear an interview with The Current. He has since not responded to two follow-up messages seeking comment.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, Jones attempted to clear up any confusion about his positive test early Tuesday.
“First, I feel great and haven’t experienced any symptoms. But Ole COVID finally got me,” he wrote. He said he and his family were doing well. “We’ve been extremely safe throughout the pandemic, but you know, things happen.”
Jones said he was “cleared to return to work and regular life as we know in 2021” after a negative test Friday morning of Thomas’ ceremony. He said he was initially excited to have “dodged a bullet” but that a followup PCR test yielded a positive result Friday night.
The timeline is somewhat inconsistent with the order of events described in Guillory’s press release, which notes that Jones — unnamed in the release — should have been in quarantine after being directly exposed to someone who tested positive earlier that week.
“I can’t comment on anyone’s health, and I don’t have any comments on that situation,” KLFY General Manager Fran McRae Posey tells The Current. “I haven’t seen any press release; I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about, but I appreciate your call.” The station ran a story today about the mayor being in quarantine without acknowledging its anchor’s role.
Thomas called Jones Tuesday morning but did not ask Jones why he tested.
“I believe he’s a professional and he, as a reporter, understands Covid. That’s what he does every day,” Thomas says. “I would be surprised and shocked if he knew he had been exposed and came to my event.”
The marshal is concerned that it was he, not Jones, who got the ball rolling on contact tracing. “The first thing you need to do, and the first thing that I did was contact Dr. Tina Stefanski,” Thomas says of the state’s top health official in the region. “Who knows better than them?”
“Stefanski contacted Dalfrey and she handled it from there, and that includes the mayor being contacted,” Thomas says.
Stefanski did not respond to a request for comment.
Thomas says he also asked Jones to put out a statement about his test result, which Jones did “almost immediately,” on Facebook, likely referencing the post Jones deleted from his own page.
Thomas acknowledges mitigation measures on the stage fell short. In an inauguration event fitting for the first Black city marshal in Lafayette’s history — the first African American ever elected in a city-wide vote — temperatures were taken at the door, masks were required (everyone wore them), hand sanitizer was available, and rows were blocked off so the audience members could space out. Thomas says he and his wife organized the event, conceding now that they fell short on measures by not putting those on stage 6 feet apart.
“We used a much bigger place than we needed at the Heymann so we could separate people, and I think people did a real good job separating,” Thomas says. “But on the stage, yes, we should have done a better job.”