April 29, 2020
April 27, 2020
April 29, 2020
April 27, 2020
QUESTION: Hey, thank you. Have you heard from any of the diplomatic posts overseas that they are having issues obtaining proper PPE given kind of the global shortages, particularly those who are interacting with folks who are being repatriated?
DR WALTERS: Yeah, it’s Doc Walters. So with regard to PPE overseas, our – as part of our ongoing preparedness well in advance of this pandemic, the Bureau of Medical Services has small stockpiles of PPE and other countermeasures at each post. We have supplemented that, again, well in advance of the crush on the supply chain that’s occurred. And so our health care providers overseas and our consular officers are provided with PPE appropriate to their interaction, understanding that there are going to be times when you come into unexpected contact with American citizens and no one’s going to stop what they’re doing in helping an American citizen.
But we – as part of the safety net, both there’s the PPE side, but there’s also the small community in each of our posts that is overseen by a medical provider from the bureau, either a direct hire or locally employed, and that – that drives the statistics that I provide at the beginning of each one of these briefs, and what we’re seeing is a fairly flat curve and no ongoing employee-to-employee transmission patterns that we’ve been able to identify.
DOS Briefing 4/14/20: “The State Department continues to strongly enforce and practice the appropriate social distancing and other non-pharmaceutical interventions, and that continues to be reflected in our own disease curves. Currently there are – we’re tracking 297 overseas cases, including 182 active with 115 recovered, holding at – thankfully holding at three overseas deaths, all within locally employed staff. Domestic cases are 71 current cases, 67 with four recovered. Important to note that we started to see domestic cases in the second into the third week of March, and so this is the point at which we would expect to see those cases start to recover. So I would anticipate over the next week, we’ll start to see the recovery cases start to climb. I am saddened to say that we’ve had our first – our second domestic death, our first within the U.S. direct-hire population, a civil servant serving here in Washington, D.C. And our condolences do go out to the family and to all families that have been impacted by coronavirus.”
DOS Briefing 3/23/20 “I can tell you we’re still at single digits here in the United States with cases – one each, two each, three each in Washington; Houston; Boston; New York; Quantico, Virginia; and Seattle. So the numbers themselves are – overseas are still double-digit. We’re looking at less than 30 scattered over 220 posts around the world, and it remains a challenge.”
Now moving on to the latest COVID-19 statistics for the Department of State, as of today, April 3rd, there are 108 confirmed cases overseas. There are 46 confirmed cases domestically, occurring in nine different cities. So far, there are no reported deaths domestically, but unfortunately there are now a total of three deaths overseas amongst our workforce.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks. I just had a question about the number of State Department deaths and a testing question. The first is: Can you give us any more information about the employee, the third person who had died or what country that was in and any other information you can give us?
And second, does State currently have a standard policy on testing? Do – for example, people who think they may be – may have the virus but are not showing symptoms, are they able to get tested? What is the standard guidance on department employees getting tested? Thanks.
MR WALTERS: So as to the first question, I can tell you that it was a locally-employed staff member overseas. I don’t – can’t really go into any further detail because it becomes easier and easier to identify individual people when you do that, so I’m afraid I can’t.
With regard to testing, domestically we all exist within a broad public health architecture. From an occupational health perspective, we have a responsibility to protect the workforce, but we live within and work within the city of Washington, D.C., or in Virginia or Maryland, and ultimately testing and contact tracing is a local and state responsibility and authority. And so we cooperate very closely with the state and local and county public health teams to make sure that we keep the workforce safe and make sure testing is used appropriately.
QUESTION: Hi, there. Thanks. Sorry, I was – I missed part of the answer to Nick’s question because of Elmo, but – (laughter) – did you, Doc Walters, say that the third death was a locally employed staffer? And is it correct that there are still no American staffers overseas who have been —who have succumbed?
And then secondly, the – how many of the more than 400 flights that Ian is talking about were commercial flights that – for which the U.S. Government did not have to pay anything? Thank you.
MR WALTERS: Thanks, Matt. I can answer the first part and then I’ll hand over to Ian and DAS Yon for the last part.
Yeah, so locally employed staff member overseas – we are not aware of any chief of mission personnel overseas who have succumbed to the illness.
The department continues to sustain and protect our overseas workforce in over 200 locations around the world. With a large employee footprint, nearly 75,000 employees, our current caseload overseas is only 75 cases – five hospitalized, all locally employed. Domestically we have 30 cases in nine cities. Most cities are single case or two cases. We do not have a documented case of employee-to-employee transmission. We’re watching very closely to that. We’ve been very aggressive in identifying cases early, decontaminating or disinfecting any impacted spaces and getting those spaces back into operation to support State Department functions on behalf of the American people.
So the department is aware of two locally employed staff – I don’t have locations and wouldn’t be able to provide further details – that have died overseas in their own country related to coronavirus. I don’t have any further details that I can pass on. There have been no deaths domestically or with any U.S. direct hires.
“So the domestic numbers are easier to quantify just based on communications with posts abroad. Obviously, this is a rapidly evolving situation, especially in the overseas environment. I can tell you we’re still at single digits here in the United States with cases – one each, two each, three each in Washington; Houston; Boston; New York; Quantico, Virginia; and Seattle. So the numbers themselves are – overseas are still double-digit. We’re looking at less than 30 scattered over 220 posts around the world, and it remains a challenge. Obviously, the – this type of outbreak, had we known earlier what the epidemiology was and had some of that data, perhaps we would have a better feel for how this was going to move across our overseas posts. But we are keeping pace with it. And again, the number at this point is less than 30.”
“In terms of the cases that we’re following from the State Department’s perspective, I don’t have the precise breakdown in front of me of how many of our direct-hire employees versus local staff. I certainly can get that information. But again, it changes so rapidly that it’s – we just want to focus on the fact that we’re doing everything we can to take care of our people overseas, and for our local staff who are so important to our operations do what we can to facilitate their getting care in the local economy. ”
“So it’s important to remember that the State Department is about 75,000 – a 75,000-person workforce overseas. We’re tracking 58 current cases in our overseas workforce, spread across the – each – one to 11 cases – I’m sorry, 33 cases is the largest number in any particular regional bureau. But at 58 cases, that’s less than one in 1,000, and that’s a direct result of aggressive actions through the Bureau of Medical Services, through the chiefs of mission at post, and implementing social distancing and telework and all the things that the department has been working so hard at over the past several weeks. Domestically, we’re tracking 16 cases in five cities, the largest at just eight. So that’s 16 cases across thousands of employees. Again, the department has taken this very seriously, has implemented just the right non-pharmaceutical interventions to keep that workforce safe.
“GTM was notified today of a presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in SA-1. The person has been out of the office since the close of business Thursday, March 19.”
“If someone working in HR was exposed, then, ostensibly, does that not mean that anyone else working in that same building (SA-1) might also have been exposed irrespective of whether or not they work for HR? Or that customers of that HR officer who visited SA-1 might’ve been? I mean, really? Are we REALLY stove piping info like this?!”
QUESTION: Hi, guys. Following up a little bit about what Matt was talking about, when it comes to these embassies overseas, I want to clarify something we talked about yesterday. It sounds to me like, for the moment, these staff members are completely reliant on local healthcare infrastructure for testing and treatment should they get ill. Is that correct? And are you planning to stand up any kind of medical capacity at these embassies or is the plan to just try to bring them home and treat them here if we need to? Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Well, working overseas for the State Department or for any government agency in a country that may have poor medical resources has been challenging all along. We have a process in place that generally we try and make sure that people with underlying medical conditions would only go to places where they have local resources that could take care of them. Obviously COVID presents new challenges.
We do have, like I said earlier, a robust health care system, a medical program. We have doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and nurses deployed at almost every mission around the world. We rely also heavily on local staff that we employ in our health units. And they’re the frontline. I mean, they’ll see the patients first, whether it’s COVID, whether it’s anything else, and either provide care directly or to find the best local care available.
In COVID obviously, as health infrastructure overseas breaks down, it’s more of a challenge. In terms of testing, we have up to now relied on local sources, local – maintain facilities for testing. I’m not sure if we’ve actually sent back samples to the CDC in Atlanta, but that’s an option as well. But I heard news today that there’s been approval for a use of a device called BioFire FilmArray, which is an apparatus that we actually have in a number of embassies overseas, so lab testing machines doesn’t require – it requires expertise, but it doesn’t require a special license to use. And BioFire company just had their approval given for use of – for creation of a cartridge to test for COVID. So going forward, we anticipate we’ll be able to do a lot more of our own monitoring and testing. Thank you.
In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense, BioFire Defense is developing a fully-automated, sample-to-result assay for the specific detection of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19. This assay is designed to run on both the BioFire® FilmArray® 2.0 and BioFire® FilmArray® Torch Systems and will deliver results in about an hour. The BioFire COVID-19 Test is being developed on an accelerated timeline, with submission for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) anticipated in Q2 of 2020.
In parallel, BioFire Diagnostics is developing new SARS-CoV-2-specific assays for addition to the BioFire® FilmArray® Respiratory 2 (RP2) Panel. This new panel will be named the BioFire® Respiratory 2.1 (RP2.1) Panel and is being developed for both the BioFire® FilmArray 2.0 and BioFire® FilmArray Torch Systems. In addition to the detection of SARS-CoV-2, the BioFire RP2.1 Panel will detect 21 additional respiratory pathogens to help clinicians quickly rule in and rule out other common causes of respiratory illness in about 45 minutes. Development of the BioFire RP2.1 Panel is also occurring on an accelerated timeline, and submission to the FDA for EUA and 510(k) clearance is anticipated in Q3 of 2020.