Energy Department headquarters to reopen next week

Energy Department headquarters to reopen next week
© Greg Nash

The Energy Department’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, which closed over the coronavirus pandemic, will reopen for some employees next week.

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told employees in an email shared with The Hill that a group of phase one employees will return Monday. 

The department’s reopening plan identifies phase one employees as those who are “mission-critical personnel whose work is best performed onsite ... including those who are needed to support limited facility operations.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Brouillette’s email also stated that those who self-identify as “members of certain categories” will be able to continue teleworking. The reopening plan states that those who say they are medically at-risk or who live with or care for vulnerable people are allowed to remain home for the first two reopening phases. 

Vulnerable people are allowed to return to the office if they choose to, however. 

About 7,000 people work in the department’s D.C. headquarters. Brouillette told employees that roughly 0.3 percent of them, or about 21 people, have been confirmed as having COVID-19. The department was one of many government agencies that instituted teleworking as the pandemic ravaged communities. 

In recent weeks, many parts of the country have started phased reopening plans, though the U.S. death toll from the virus has reached over 100,000. 

The Energy secretary's email said that employees who return will receive information and can get virtual training that includes information safety precautions being taken such as “sanitization, screening criteria, hand sanitizer, signage, and other preparations that have occurred at our HQ buildings.”

The news comes as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also moving to reopen soon. A memo obtained by E&E News said that the agency would be reopening offices in Georgia, Kansas and Washington state. 

An EPA spokesperson told The Hill that it is “evaluating the gating criteria as well as considering the reopening status of the state and local area to inform our decision.” 

The official also said that employees would not be “forced to return to the office” and are encouraged to telework during the first phases of the opening plan.