The Voice of America confirms the first case of 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) in one of its employees. Laboratory testing confirmed this diagnosis. This individual was last in the VOA headquarters building on March 11, 2020, became sick, went home and immediately went for testing which was performed the following day. This individual is in good condition and is isolated to prevent spread of infection to others. The entire VOA workforce sends its best wishes to the employee for a rapid and full recovery.
Upon first being made aware of the employee’s illness, VOA leadership responded aggressively, taking all appropriate measures to respond to this situation even before learning of the test results. VOA’s parent agency, the U.S. Agency for Global Media, immediately arranged for the General Service Administration’s recommended industrial cleaning crew to clean and sanitize all areas where this individual works, as well as offices the individual used. In addition, the same industrial cleaners have cleaned and sanitized VOA studios every other day.
Out of an abundance of caution, on first being made aware of this employee’s illness on March 11, all individuals who came in contact with the employee who received the positive coronavirus diagnosis were immediately sent home to self-quarantine. They will continue to self-quarantine based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended guidelines, including contacting their respective health providers for further guidance.
VOA will handle this case – and any future cases that may arise - with the utmost respect to privacy, while also promptly informing potentially affected staff and taking swift and decisive measures to mitigate spread of the virus. Out of respect for individual privacy, there are details about this case (or any others that might occur in the future) that the agency will not be able to share.
VOA is considering and taking all necessary actions to further protect the health and safety of its workforce. The agency is taking proactive steps to reduce the risk of infection among the workforce. These steps have included encouraging sick employees to stay home, increasing the frequency of cleaning all VOA facilities, canceling meetings and staff travel, increasing the use of teleworking among staff to more than 80 percent of the total workforce, and encouraging social distancing and other preventive measures.
The health and safety of the global VOA workforce is the top priority for the agency. VOA leadership will continue to assess and improve ways to protect staff from COVID-19 in every manner and measure available and will keep the workforce fully informed, should new cases occur in the future.