Thousands of Federal Employees Have Contracted COVID-19
Many more are quarantined due to possible exposure as employees are on the frontlines fighting the coronavirus and providing essential services.
Federal employees across the country are working from home as the novel coronavirus pandemic has forced nationwide advisories to stay at home, closing virtually all offices deemed “non-essential.”
Many agencies, however, have missions that cannot be performed remotely, forcing hundreds of thousands of federal workers to 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 supplies, equipment and distancing policies.
While the work of the government must go on, it has left employees exposed to the coronavirus. Here’s a look at the agencies in which the most federal workers have contracted COVID-19.
- Defense Department: As of Wednesday, the Pentagon has confirmed 306 cases among civilian workers. An additional 893 military personnel have tested positive, as well nearly 100 contractors.
- Veterans Affairs Department: VA has confirmed 532 cases among its Veterans Health Administration employees, nearly tripling the total it had just six days ago. A recent inspector general report found 60% of VA medical facilities lacked the proper supplies and equipment to protect employees and patients. Facilities in Indianapolis and New Orleans have been the hardest hit to date.
- U.S. Postal Service: USPS has confirmed 259 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, but employees still say basic items are not available. More than 85,000 workers have signed a position asking for better protections.
- State Department: State has confirmed 156 cases in its workforce, 118 of which are overseas. Another 123 are awaiting test results and a whopping 2,800 employees are self-isolating due to possible exposure. State has coordinated the repatriation of more than 35,000 Americans since the outbreak began.
- Transportation Security Administration: Currently, 79 TSA employees are out with positive coronavirus tests. TSA would not share data on how many employees contracted the virus and have since recovered. Most of those who tested positive are frontline screeners. The Homeland Security Department declined to provide data across all of its components.
- 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: As of Monday, the National Park Service confirmed seven cases, according to The Washington Post. NPS made all parks free, 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.