Weapons Complex Monitor Vol. 32 No. 22
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June 04, 2021

Nearly 4,900 COVID-19 Cases Logged at EM Since Pandemic Began

By Wayne Barber

There have been 4,867 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management workforce since the pandemic took root in the United States in early 2020, according to figures provided Thursday by the agency’s cleanup branch.

This week there are 47 active confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the Environmental Management (EM) complex, an office spokesperson said via email. The total is 18 fewer than the 65 last week and also means that active cases have stayed below triple digits for three of the past four weeks.

It’s a drastic drop from mid-January mid-January, when there were 473 active cases in a week.

The case count at EM continues to dwindle as the number of vaccinated workers rises, although the agency says it does not formally track what percentage of its workforce has received shots of one of the COVID vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said about half of the U.S. adult population has received at least one shot of COVID vaccine. 

One year ago, there were 33 active confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the EM complex.

The Hanford Site in Washington state remains one of the few nuclear cleanup properties that have yet to drop an indoor mask requirement for fully-vaccinated workers due in part, sources say, to state rules. The Washington Department of Labor and Industry has said vaccinated employees need not wear masks if they can prove they’ve been vaccinated.

After initially announcing vaccinated workers at the former plutonium complex would stop indoor masking effective May 25, in keeping with guidance from DOE and the CDC, Hanford’s site manager Brian Vance reversed course and kept the mask mandate in place.

Four workers have tested positive for the coronavirus at Hanford this week, according to a contractor-run DOE website for the site. 

Meanwhile, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico had no new confirmed cases between May 25 and June 1 and has been at or near zero for several weeks now, according to a Wednesday press release from the disposal facility’s operator, Nuclear Waste Partnership. By contrast there were dozens of cases last fall when New Mexico suspended temporary work authorization for a new underground shaft.

On Friday morning, a DOE spokesperson at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina said it has 13 employees quarantined with the virus, down from 18 last week.

As of Friday morning, 33.3 million people in the United States have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began and there have been 596,000 deaths as a result, according to an online tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University.  

Nuclear Deterrence Summit 2021 August 3-5, 2021 Alexandria, VA