On Tuesday, March 3, we alerted you about a potential case of COVID-19 within our own employee community in Seattle, Washington. Late last night, we found out that the DHS employee did test positive for the novel Coronavirus. Fortunately, the employee is already recovering from his flu-like symptoms and is at home with this family.
The specific building where the District Office is located has been closed to limit further possible exposure. Due to this confirmation of employee COVID-19 infection, we are going to continue to follow appropriate public health steps to ensure the other DHS employees in this building remain safe. We are working directly with each DHS employee in that building to identify who may have been in contact with the employee and at a higher risk of exposure. If identified as being at high risk, we encourage an employee to conduct themselves according to CDC guidelines and take appropriate steps outside the office. In addition, we have been identifying the co-workers who would be at low risk of exposure, so they may return to work in the building as soon as possible.
We believe the risk of additional infections for employees in this office building is low, and we do not believe visitors to the building were placed at risk due to the operational conditions. Recognizing that not everyone has the same underlying health issues, however, we are not taking any of this lightly. We will ensure that any future issues with potential exposure are given the specific, case-by-case response they deserve.
As we go into the weekend, please take time to review the websites and facts available. As I noted on Tuesday, education and prevention are our strongest tools against infection. Stay informed by visiting the CDC’s COVID-19 website, our new COVID-19 Workforce Information site, or the DHS Employee Resources site frequently to get the latest news for yourself and your loved ones. Continue to practice good personal health habits, avoid unnecessary travel, refrain from handshakes or hugs as greetings, reconsider large in-person meetings, and clean hands and surfaces appropriately. Please do not hesitate to talk to your supervisor about your concerns, travel plans, or possible symptoms—especially if you or a family member may be at a higher risk. Your supervisors have guidance that can help you both navigate this situation.
We are stronger as a community than we are alone. If you print and display just one CDC factsheet about COVID-19 prevention in your workplace, you can help us keep your colleagues and the public we serve informed. For our contractors, please ensure you and your Contracting Officer’s Representative have discussed actions you can take during this situation as well.
I will continue to provide you updates as this situation evolves. Please remember that your health and well-being are paramount. Do not hesitate to talk with your supervisor as soon—and as often—as needed.
Chief Human Capital Officer