On March 30, the number two official respectively from the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the Bureau of Medical Services held another joint Briefing on Updates On Health Impact and Assistance For American Citizens Abroad. When asked, “Are you aware of any deaths among the State Department staff due to coronavirus?”, MED’s Dr. William Walters responded:
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.
Fast forward March 31, the Secretary Pompeo made remarks to the press, excerpt:
And lastly, you asked a question about disinformation in the moment here with the COVID-19 challenge. I see it every day. Every morning I get up and I read the data set from across the world, not only the tragedy that’s taking place here. We’ve had a State Department official pass away as a result of this virus, one of our team members. We now have 3,000 Americans who have been killed. This is tragic. My prayers go out to every American and every American family impacted by this.
This data set matters. The ability to trust the data that you’re getting so that our scientists and doctors and experts at the World Health Organization and all across the world who are trying to figure out how to remediate this, how to find therapies, how to find – identify a solution which will ultimately be a vaccine, to determine whether the actions that we’re taking – the social distancing, all the things that we’re doing, limiting transportation, all those things we’re doing – to figure out if they’re working so that we can save lives depends on the ability to have confidence and information about what has actually transpired.
This is the reason disinformation is dangerous. It’s not because it’s bad politics. It is because it puts lives at risk if we don’t have confidence in the information that’s coming from every country. So I would urge every nation: Do your best to collect the data. Do your best to share that information. We’re doing that. We’re collecting, we’re sharing, and we’re making sure that we have good, sound basis upon which to make decisions about how to fight this infectious disease. That’s the risk that comes when countries choose to engage in campaigns of disinformation across the world.
That made news, of course, but subsequently corrected, because as it turned out — it was not accurate.
By afternoon, the State Department clarified that there were two employees killed by COVID-19, as revealed in the March 30 briefing. Both were local employees, one from Indonesia (on our list but until now unconfirmed), and another from Democratic Republic of Congo (we previously asked post and FSI about one DRC case, but both were mum as a clam in mud at low tide).
So the secretary of state told everyone at the briefing that “data set matters” and that every morning, he reads the data set from across the world. Then he talked about one State Department official’s death — “one of our team members” — when THERE WASN’T ONE, and failed to mention during the briefing the death of TWO local employees from COVID-19, non-U.S. citizen members of the State Department family.
Uppercase voice used since he could not even get the casualty details right.
At the end of this story, Pompeo in a belated statement, cited the two local staffers from Jakarta and Kinshasa who died from COVID-19 and expressed “deepest sympathies and condolences.”
“We offer our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families affected by this tragedy, and thank them for their loved ones' service to the United States” Pompeo says
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) April 1, 2020
State Dept now clarifying there were two employees killed by the coronavirus, as State’s deputy chief medical officer Dr. Walters first told reporters Monday. Neither was US official, both were locally employed staffers—one in Indonesia and one in DRC, per a spox. https://t.co/h2fia9k4Ad
— Conor Finnegan (@cjf39) April 1, 2020
“Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of the @StateDept employee who has been lost to #COVIDー19. They have our deepest condolences, as does the entire State Department family spread out around the world.”
-CHM @RepEliotEngel & RM @RepMcCaulhttps://t.co/X8YzJwkkcU
— House Foreign Affairs Committee (@HouseForeign) April 1, 2020
The death marked the first American fatality within the U.S. diplomatic corps from the coronavirus. https://t.co/e1QBca4dN0
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) March 31, 2020
BREAKING: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly confirmed on Tuesday that a state department official had died of the novel coronavirushttps://t.co/KQ51ODTRjV
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) March 31, 2020