More Than 10,000 Federal Employees Have Contracted COVID-19
The number of positive cases in the federal workforce has more than quadrupled since early April.
As the United States topped 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the number of federal employees who have tested positive for the virus has surpassed 10,000.
While most federal employees are still teleworking, many agencies have missions that cannot be performed remotely and hundreds of thousands of federal workers continue reporting to their work stations. Federal offices, like those in all sectors in the country, have struggled to keep their employees safe. Workers have complained of insufficient protective supplies, equipment and distancing policies. The total number of positive cases within the federal workforce has more than quadrupled since early April.
At some agencies, employees are instructed to continue working even after exposure to the virus. At others, thousands of workers are home on quarantine as they await test results or to see whether symptoms develop. The work of the government must go on, however, leaving employees exposed to the novel coronavirus. Here’s a look at the agencies in which the most federal workers have contracted COVID-19.
- Defense Department: As of Tuesday afternoon, the Pentagon had confirmed 1,091 cases among civilian workers. An additional 4,265 military personnel tested positive, as well as 427 contractors.
- Veterans Affairs Department: VA has confirmed 1,633 cases among its Veterans Health Administration employees. VA employees have expressed significant concern about the lack of personal protective equipment, policies that threaten discipline or loss of pay if they do not come in after exposure and poor communication from management. Twenty VA employees have died from symptoms related to the virus.
- U.S. Postal Service: USPS has confirmed 1,606 employees tested positive for the virus in its workforce of 630,000. The Postal Service has sought to make gloves and masks available in all of its work stations after employees for weeks said basic items were not available. Cases among postal workers jumped by 33% in the last week.
- State Department: State has confirmed 436 cases in its workforce, most of which are currently active. More than 2,800 employees are self-isolating due to possible exposure. Five State Department employees have died from symptoms related to the virus.
- Transportation Security Administration: TSA has seen 495 employees test positive for COVID-19. All told, about 1,000 Homeland Security Department workers have tested positive, according to a Buzzfeed report. At least 17 Federal Emergency Management Agency workers have contracted the virus.
- Agriculture Department: At USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, at least 100 employees have tested positive. The agency is struggling to keep employees safe as hotspots have developed at meat processing plants around the country.
- Internal Revenue Service: 100 IRS employees have contracted the coronavirus. The agency asked 10,000 workers to return to their offices this week.
- Health and Human Services Department: HHS has spearheaded and coordinated much of the federal response, and so far 74 employees have tested positive for the virus.
- Interior Department: At least 10 National Park Service employees have tested positive. NPS made all parks free during the pandemic, though a growing number have since closed. Interior also declined to provide updated figures across its bureaus.
Most agencies did not disclose how many employees are home on quarantine due to potential exposure to colleagues who tested positive, though that number is also at least in the thousands. Agencies like VA, TSA and others are also dealing with widespread absenteeism as employees are declining to work and risk contracting the virus. The White House has instructed agencies to develop ways to bring employees back to the office, though it advised top officials to follow the guidance of state and local leaders and public health officials.