The Department of Energy is taking steps to implement White House policy to stem the tide of increasing COVID-19 infections by again ordering mask wearing indoors, giving more time off to have family members vaccinated and holding off on many in-person meetings.
Effective immediately, “any DOE-hosted in-person meeting, conference, or event that will be attended by more than 50 participants—regardless of whether participants include members of the public—must first be approved by the Secretary, in consultation with the DOE COVID-19 Coordination Team,” according to a Wednesday email to agency employees from DOE chief of staff Tarak Shah seen by Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor.
Also, federal employees can receive up to four hours of administrative leave per dose to accompany a family member receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. This is in addition to the administrative leave DOE already authorized for workers to get the shot, according to the Shah email, which also reiterates President Joe Biden’s admonition on indoor masking.
“[F]ace coverings must be worn by everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in all DOE buildings and leased spaces that are in areas of substantial or high community transmission,” Shah said. As of Thursday, that included a significant portion of the DOE complex, according to the email.
In the “Dear DOE Family,” email, Shah said that in recent weeks, “the U.S. has unfortunately seen a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, especially among the unvaccinated population. This includes a large uptick in cases around the DOE complex.”
Anecdotal information would seem to support that assessment as 30 workers at the Hanford Site in Washington state reported to their managers, Monday and Tuesday they have tested positive for the virus, according to a website administered by the Leidos-led site support services contractor at the former plutonium production complex.
Last week, Biden also said federal employees and contractors who remain unvaccinated will face regular testing for the virus and be restricted from some work travel. Shah said in the Wednesday email that DOE will be passing down additional guidance in the near future.