Energy & Environment

Interior Department says 35 agency staffers have died from COVID-19

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The Interior Department confirmed 35 employees have died from COVID-19 as of Friday, prompting Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to reimpose a departmentwide mask mandate.

“At Interior, 34 members of our agency family have died from COVID-19,” Haaland said in a video released Friday.

In a tweet, department spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said one more staffer has died since the video was recorded earlier this week.

“More than 3,900 [Interior employees] have reported contracting the illness, and the numbers are actually going up,” Haaland added. “Though many people are vaccinated, our country still faces increased rates of COVID-19 infections and more aggressive variants.”

Schwartz added that the number of infections has also increased since Haaland recorded the video, surpassing 4,000 as of Friday.

Haaland confirmed in her message that the department will resume mask-wearing in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.

“Each state and community faces different threats, so if you are in an area with substantial to high COVID transmission rates, everyone — employees, contractors and visitors — must wear a mask in all federal buildings no matter your vaccination status,” Haaland added.

She went on to pledge to provide continual updates on vaccination guidance in accordance with the general guidance for federal employees outlined by President Biden this week.

An Interior spokesperson confirmed to The Hill that the department will implement a process in the coming weeks for employees and contractors, as well as some visitors, to confirm their vaccination status.

Tags Deb Haaland Joe Biden

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