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Newsline: ‘Chernobyl’ At State Department As COVID Decimates Agency

As the galloping omicron variant forces businesses and schools to struggle with staffing, one of the nation’s top national security agencies is also feeling the strain. The State Department is experiencing a stunning surge in COVID-19 cases, three U.S. officials told HuffPost this week. One said the situation is internally being called “Chernobyl,” a nod to the worst nuclear disaster in history. The uptick in cases is affecting both the agency’s headquarters in Washington and some of its overseas embassies and consulates, which handle local diplomacy and key immigration work, according to a congressional aide. Combined with the broader consequences of the virus’s spread, agency staff are facing a major strain. “Your average State worker bee is having to deal with schools being back to remote [learning], kids at home, and having to juggle unclear quarantine timelines, etc. … not to mention protect their own well-being and health,” the aide said. A State Department spokesperson downplayed the situation via email. “The Omicron variant is infecting an increasing number of people in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, including some State Department employees. However, the holidays and max telework posture means that many of these cases were reported by people who had not been onsite or in the workplace before onset of symptoms or positive test,” the spokesperson wrote. (https://news.yahoo.com/chernobyl-state-department-covid-decimates-211049058.html) They added that the agency is pursuing “maximum safety” and encouraging personnel to obtain vaccine booster shots, including through the department’s own clinic. In December, State Department leadership directed as many employees as possible to work remotely.

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