A Message From Dr. Francis S. Collins:
Dear NIH Family:
I’m writing to share the news that we have the first known case of an NIH staff member who has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. This individual works for the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases on an upper floor of the South section of Building 10 (away from patients). The individual is now quarantined at home and is doing well. Importantly, the individual was asymptomatic while at work, which is believed to lower the risk of transmission. After developing symptoms, the individual stayed home and called the NIH Occupational Medical Service (OMS), exactly as described in the NIH Guidance for Staff on Coronavirus. OMS arranged testing, and the result was positive. OMS and the NIH Clinical Center Hospital Epidemiology Service are now actively identifying staff who work in close proximity to this individual and may have been exposed. Those individuals will be contacted and screened for symptoms as soon as possible and asked to self-quarantine at home if their exposure constitutes a significant risk of infection according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. OMS will monitor them closely for infection. If you have not been contacted by OMS by the end of the day today, you can assume you are not in a risk situation. We commend the infected individual for following the guidance, which has allowed us to take swift action.
While this is an unfortunate development, it is not surprising, and we expect that there likely will be more cases of infection. I felt it was important to let all NIH staff know of the first case. Moving forward, however, I will inform staff weekly of the total number of infected cases, but do not plan to issue emails for every individual case. Please know that each case will be handled with the utmost respect for privacy, while also informing potentially affected staff and taking swift measures to mitigate spread of the virus.
I remind all of you to follow the CDC guidance about COVID-19 to prevent illness and recognize symptoms. If you feel the onset of flu-like symptoms, stay home – or go home immediately if you are at work – and call your healthcare provider for medical advice. As soon as you’re able, contact your supervisor and the NIH Occupational Medical Service, as noted in the NIH guidance.
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.