Workforce

Watchdog report finds OPM didn't always alert employees of COVID cases

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

During the height of the pandemic, the Office of Personnel Management failed to notify the workforce of positive test results and didn't require employees at agency facilities to wear masks, according to a report from the OPM's Office of the Inspector General released by a member of Congress on Thursday.

The agency's OIG evaluated OPM's May 2020 guide on how it should approach coming back to the office and its safety protocols from July 2020 to December 2020.

OIG examined 10 of 72 reported COVID-19 cases and found that in six instances it could not be determined whether nearby employees were notified. OIG also said that they couldn't ascertain if the office had particular cleaning policies for known cases, and they found that the office needed additional signage on COVID safety.

The findings are largely of historic interest; the guidance reviewed by OIG has since been superseded by an updated plan put out after a Biden administration executive order on federal workforce safety and mask-wearing.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who asked for the report, called the OIG's disclosures "a stunning indictment of the Trump administration's reckless, rushed, and ultimately dangerous plans to return federal employees to the workplace in the middle of the pandemic."

Connolly has requested similar reviews of 23 other federal agencies. He also cited the report as evidence backing his bill requiring agencies to publish safety plans. The bill, named in honor of Chai Suthammanont, a federal employee died of COVID-19, passed the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday.

About the Author

Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.

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