State health officials on Monday took the unusual step of publicly correcting a Jan. 6 report that a COVID-19 outbreak at the Meow Wolf building in Denver included 15 employees of the company.
Meow Wolf, a Santa Fe-based entertainment company, had pushed back on the Jan. 6 data, calling it “inaccurate” in a statement provided to The Denver Post on Jan. 8.
“Meow Wolf is correct that it was contractors, not employees,” said Tammy Vigil, spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. “It would be on the individual contractors to make sure the site is safe (for their employees), and that they’re following procedures to prevent COVID transmission.”
The Denver Post and other media outlets last week reported that 15 Meow Wolf employees had contracted COVID-19 at the building, citing the weekly outbreak report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. But Meow Wolf, which has battled bad publicity on and off while finishing its new Denver installation, disputed the report.
“We are working with the DPHE to clear up what we believe are inaccuracies in their reporting of COVID” cases, company officials said in a statement on Friday.
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On Monday, state officials said the report they received about the outbreak had incorrectly listed the setting type as an “art gallery.”
“After we posted data … DDPHE provided CDPHE with additional information about the outbreak and confirmed the setting type was construction,” CDPHE officials wrote in an email. “Outbreak data is updated every Wednesday and when it is posted this week, it will specify that the outbreak is at the Meow Wolf construction site.”
State officials said their epidemiologists have not been contacted by Meow Wolf.
At issue was whether the outbreak included employees — who would be governed by Meow Wolf’s safety procedures — or contractors, who are in charge of their own practices at the mostly indoor site. Both must follow state rules, but clarifying that the outbreak was among contractors, not employees, would leave responsibility with the contractors.
Seven Turner Construction employees tested positive for COVID-19 at the site, according to updated data from the city, as well as six employees of Tower Electric. Two other contractors — one from Cost of Wisconsin and one from Concrete Floor Systems — also tested positive.
An outbreak is defined as two or more people with confirmed cases of COVID-19, in a workplace or facility, where the onset of symptoms occurs within 14 days.
The clarification is significant for Meow Wolf, which has worked to ingratiate itself into the Denver arts scene as it readies a massive new installation at the junction of Interstate 25, East Colfax Avenue and Auraria Parkway. Amid employee complaints, layoffs and the formation of a union, the company in 2020 barreled forward with its plans to open its would-be tourist attraction — full of surreal sculptures and Instagram-friendly backdrops — west of downtown Denver.
This is not the first time the state’s weekly outbreak list has contained a mistake. In September, the state erroneously reported a COVID-19 outbreak at Monument Academy.
“We received information on an outbreak and because of a miscommunication, we identified the wrong school,” an agency spokesperson said at the time, adding the outbreak actually occurred at Bear Creek Elementary, also in Monument. “It was human error, and we apologize for the confusion.”
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