Workforce

OPM preps guidance about Wuhan coronavirus

By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268 

In a Feb. 3 memo sent to agency heads, the Office of Personnel Management announced it was partnering with the Center for Disease Control to educate the federal community about the respiratory illness known as Wuhan coronavirus and ways to prevent further spread.

Additionally, OPM Director Dale Cabaniss said, the agency will issue guidance if necessary" as soon as possible to assist agencies in meeting two equally important goals: (1) the safety of the Federal workforce, and (2) the continuity of operations."

Coronavirus, whose official name is 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), originated in Wuhan City, China in late 2019. Some 20,630 cases and 426 deaths have been reported worldwide, according to a Feb. 4 situation report from the World Health Organization, though only one of those deaths was outside China. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, and fever, according to the CDC. It's thought to spread via close contact between people.

WHO declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern on Jan. 30.

Despite this, "the risk of contracting 2019-nCoV remains very low," Cabaniss said in the memo. "Agencies should remind employees to use good health habits such as hand washing and encourage sick employees to seek medical treatment and use sick leave or other appropriate workplace flexibilities." She also encouraged "social distancing" to prevent spread, such as allowing employees to telework "where necessary."

On Feb. 2, the State Department issued a warning against traveling to China and barred foreign nationals who have visited China recently from entering the U.S. for two weeks. Many U.S. airlines have also cancelled service to mainland China and quarantines have been instituted to redirect travelers who have visited China since the outbreak and who are returning to the U.S. for special screening.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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