Almost 500 employees at the Department of Homeland Security are currently quarantined because of possible exposure to the coronavirus, with 13 confirmed infected or presumed positive, according to documents obtained by Politico.
“The department’s leadership is going to have to pay very close attention as this public health crisis evolves,” John Cohen, former acting undersecretary of intelligence and analysis, told Politico. “It has to be concerned that its ability to carry out its core mission could be compromised if there’s a widespread outbreak of the virus among DHS personnel.
“And quite frankly, that’s something that federal, state, and local officials need to be concerned about across the board — that this virus will spread among first responders, law enforcement, and Homeland Security personnel, compromising the ability of those organizations to protect the public.”
House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a statement”
“It’s important to remember that during this pandemic, the DHS workforce is still manning the frontlines, protecting our skies and borders. It’s critical they are properly protected — and the administration has a long-term plan for this. Not just for their own health and safety, but to ensure we have a fully functional frontline workforce in the months to come.”
Former DHS spokesperson David Lapan told Politico:
“Because of the president’s outsized focus on the immigration enforcement part of the DHS mission set — since immigration is not the only thing in DHS’s mission — the organization has been under a lot of strain over the last three years. The focus on immigration, lots of attention, lots of presidential pressure, vacancies, changes in leadership, the government shutdown, people having to work without pay — after all of that, add on this pandemic, and I think you have cause for concern about a workforce that has been under extended stress now having to endure yet more.”
A DHS spokesperson declined to comment on the documents to Politico or confirm the quarantine.