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DHS Shuts Down Facility In Washington State Over Coronavirus Concerns

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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The acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has ordered the temporary shutdown of a DHS facility in Washington state following the spread of the coronavirus.

Chad Wolf, speaking before the House Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday, revealed in his opening statements that he has ordered a DHS facility in King County, Washington to be closed, and for affected employees to work from home, following the spread of coronavirus in the area.

The acting DHS chief said the decision was done “out of abundance of caution.”

“Late last night, the Department was made aware of a situation involving a DHS employee and out of an abundance of caution and following recommended procedure, I ordered a DHS facility in King County, Washington state to close beginning today and directed those employees to telework, if possible, in order to reduce the threat of community spread of the coronavirus,” Wolf told members of the committee.

Senate Appropriations Committee Hears Testimony From Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

“At this time, the affected offices will remain closed for 14 days and all employees have been directed to self-quarantine for 14 days,” he continued.

The decision to close the facility, according to Wolf, was made after a DHS employee visited a relative at the Life Care Facility in Kirkland, Washington before it was known it had been impacted by the novel coronavirus. While the employee did not show up to work upon feeling ill, the Department is taking extra precaution by ordering all affected coworkers to self-quarantine for two weeks.

“From the headquarters level, we began sending all-employee messages on January 22nd regarding coronavirus, regarding procedures they need to take as this continues to unfold, and we’ll continue to do so,” Wolf explained. “At this time, a rapid response team at headquarters is working with the CDC, state and local officials on further guidance.” (RELATED: Nearly 10% Of Iranian Lawmakers Are Infected With Coronavirus, Iran’s State Media Reports)

The novel coronavirus has continued to spread slowly throughout the U.S., with it hitting Washington state particularly hard.

As of Tuesday morning, there were just over 100 reported cases in 15 different states, with Georgia and New Hampshire being the latest states to report an outbreak. The disease has so far killed six people across the U.S. — all of them being in King County, Washington, according to the latest updates.

Four individuals in a nursing home in Seattle have died from the disease, and so have another two in the county.

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