Three federal employees from the Gulf of Mexico region of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement have tested positive for COVID-19, the virus driving the global pandemic, a spokesman confirmed today.
Two workers were from BSEE’s New Orleans office, and a third works in the Gulf of Mexico, spokesman Sandy Day said in an email.
"The employees are currently under medical care," he said. "We are working to ensure that affected areas are thoroughly cleaned and safe for employees to return."
Day declined to provide further information about the employees, citing their privacy.
"The important thing to remember is we are looking out for the health and well-being of our employees," he said.
The virus’s growth in Louisiana has been exponential, with more than 4,000 positive cases and more than 100 deaths. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) issued a stay-at-home order March 23 to curb the virus’s spread.
As of Friday, Orleans Parish, where New Orleans is located, had the highest per capita death rate from COVID-19 in the country, according to the Times-Picayune/Advocate.
BSEE did not respond to questions sent Friday regarding whether workers would be reducing their inspections during the pandemic or limiting their presence on offshore oil and gas facilities, or whether offshore inspectors had been provided with protective gear, including masks, to guard against exposure to COVID-19.
"The safety and health of our employees is a top priority," Day said in an email.
Day also reiterated a previous statement that BSEE is working with the Interior Office of Emergency Management, following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Office of Personnel Management, and state and local authorities.
Employees across the federal government have tested positive for the virus in recent days. The Department of Energy has reported three, and EPA 13 (see related story.).