Eleven EPA employees now have been infected by the novel coronavirus, the agency confirmed today.
An EPA spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for more information on where all the new cases have been reported.
But internal emails obtained by E&E News show an EPA employee in Atlanta tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, and a contractor in New York may be infected.
EPA leaders were notified on March 24 that the Atlanta employee, whose identity EPA is protecting out of privacy concerns, had come down with the illness. The employee had last been in the office on March 19, and the agency had notified all "personnel who may have come in contact with this employee," Region 4 Administrator Mary Walker said in an email the following day.
On the Atlanta employee’s last day in the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center, Administrator Andrew Wheeler formally urged every EPA employee to work at home "unless there is a compelling mission critical reason for you to be in the office" (Greenwire, March 20).
The same day, EPA leaders also learned that an EPA contractor "was in close contact with an individual that is exhibiting the symptoms for COVID-19," Region 2 Administrator Peter Lopez said in a late-night email. The potentially infected contractor, he said, had been in the office earlier that day.
EPA had eased limits on telework for agency employees in New York the week before. But it’s unclear if that decision applied to contractors (Greenwire, March 10).
Last week, there were already confirmed cases in EPA’s Montana, Boston and Washington headquarters offices. Additionally, another person in the Cincinnati office was "presumed positive" for the disease (Greenwire, March 26).
Reporter Kevin Bogardus contributed.