USDA HQ partially shut down after coronavirus infection

By Marc Heller | 03/16/2020 01:17 PM EDT

Department of Agriculture headquarters in Washington. USDA announced today that an employee has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Department of Agriculture headquarters in Washington. USDA announced today that an employee has tested positive for the new coronavirus. Francis Chung/E&E News

A Department of Agriculture employee in the national capital region has tested positive for the new coronavirus, leading to a partial shutdown of USDA offices, the department said.

In a statement, a USDA spokesman said the employee informed the department Sunday about the positive test. Workers in close proximity to the employee were told to start working from home immediately. The part of the facility where they work was closed for sanitizing and deep cleaning.

The department didn’t say which building is affected.

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"On Sunday, March 15th, a USDA employee in the National Capital Region (NCR) informed USDA that they received a positive test result for coronavirus," the spokesperson said. "That same day, USDA notified employees who work in close proximity to the employee that they should begin teleworking immediately to help ensure the safety and health of our employees."

In addition, the department said "maximized telework" is available for USDA employees in the national capital region beginning tomorrow (see related story).

Last week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told lawmakers the department was making case-by-case decisions on teleworking, depending on workers’ locations. The department employs more than 100,000 people around the country, he said.

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