3 Chicago staffers had contact with virus carriers

By Corbin Hiar | 03/18/2020 01:41 PM EDT

Three employees in EPA’s Midwest regional office have come into contact with people who have confirmed cases of COVID-19, the deadly respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

It’s unclear if any of the unidentified EPA employees contracted the disease, but one "is experiencing flu-like symptoms," Kurt Thiede, the administrator of EPA’s Chicago-based Region 5, said yesterday evening in an email obtained by E&E News.

All of the potentially infected employees "have not returned to the office since reporting their situations," he wrote. "If these employees identify you as someone they were in contact with, we will be reaching out to you to inform you and to encourage you to continue teleworking."

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To slow the spread of the coronavirus, last week EPA relaxed its policies on working from home or taking unscheduled time off in several regional offices, including Chicago (Greenwire, March 13).

Employees at other agencies have already tested positive for the virus, including one person at the Washington headquarters of the Agriculture Department (Greenwire, March 16).

Reporter Kevin Bogardus contributed.

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