Morning Briefing - March 12, 2020
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March 12, 2020

No Known COVID-19 Cases at Livermore After Employee Tested Negative

By ExchangeMonitor

There are no known cases of COVID-19 at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory after an employee who reported exposure to the novel coronavirus tested negative for the disease, a lab spokesperson said Wednesday.

We’ve had no cases, confirmed or presumptive,” the spokesperson wrote in an email Wednesday evening.

Livermore managers became aware last week of the employee’s exposure to the 2019 coronavirus, leading the nuclear weapons-design facility to ban staff business travel this week and cancel visits to the California campus. The employee who reported exposure went into self-quarantine, along with 25 lab personnel who had contact with that individual. The exposed employee had tested negative for COVID-19 by Friday.

Nevertheless, those lab employees who went into quarantine will continue self-monitoring at home through next week. Lab employees are also allowed to telecommute, the spokesperson wrote.

The lab has not made a decision on what restrictions, if any, will be in place beyond March 13,” the Livermore spokesperson said Wednesday. That decision will be made soon.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that broke out in China last year and has spread across the globe, becoming a planet-wide pandemic. Washington state has been hardest hit in the U.S., suffering most of the deaths.

Since Livermore instituted its travel ban last week, confirmed U.S. infections more than quintupled to over 1,300, while confirmed U.S. deaths from the disease rose by almost 20 to almost 40. The figures are current as of Thursday morning, according to a tracker maintained by the Johns Hopkins University.

COVID-19 is distinct from, influenza, even though both diseases come from viruses that can cause similar symptoms: coughing and shortness of breath, accompanied by fever. The elderly are thought to be especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Unlike with some strains of the flu, which has also killed thousands this winter, there are no vaccines against COVID-19. 

As COVID-19 spread, nuclear events in Washington have been canceled or postponed. On Wednesday, the Arms Control Association postponed its annual meeting to November from April. The Nuclear Threat Initiative, another arms-control advocate, postponed a Wednesday evening talk by Frank Klotz, the former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories similarly canceled an annual Washington get-together, the Strategic Weapons in the 21st Century summit, which was scheduled for Thursday.

The broader Department of Energy, meanwhile, has told employees to limit domestic travel, cancel some international travel, and consider skipping meetings that will draw 30 or more people.