The Government Is Failing to Notify Employees of COVID Cases in Their Buildings or Ensure Cleaning, IG Says

Maridav/Shutterstock.com

The approach is "threatening the health and safety of federal workers, contractors, building occupants and the public," lawmaker said.

The federal government’s property manager has failed to stay informed on coronavirus outbreaks in its buildings or notify workers when it does find out about positive cases, according to a new report. 

The General Services Administration has not consistently received notifications when federal buildings under its jurisdiction record a positive COVID-19 case, as required by its own policies. In a sample audit, the GSA inspector general found building tenants sometimes took up to a week to notify GSA of the tests. GSA, through its Public Buildings Service, owns or leases most of the buildings federal agencies occupy. 

In a management alert to the agency, the IG also cited GSA for failing to notify all building occupants of COVID-19 cases. GSA policy requires the agency to notify all tenants of an infection in their building within 24 hours, but the IG found one incident in which the agency did not inform the building occupants for 16 days. In another case, the notification process took seven days. Under its policy, GSA should utilize facility managers, regional administrators and tenant agencies to spread the details of all infections. If an agency refused to notify staff, the Public Building Service commissioner should intervene and find a resolution. PBS failed to implement this approach, however, leading to delays in notifications. 

The IG said GSA had updated its policy so it instead only had to notify designated points of contact, but the auditors still faulted the agency for failing to “provide timely notification of positive COVID-19 cases as required” and said it should still ensure all employees in the building are notified. Some agencies have suggested they would not notify employees about cases within their work spaces. 

PBS created a checklist specifically for custodial services during the pandemic, but the IG found it is not providing any oversight of its cleaning contractors to ensure they are disinfecting federal buildings. The agency said it required contractors to submit a pandemic plan but faced no obligation to modify its contracts or oversight of them. 

“PBS’s reliance on a contractor supplied pandemic plan does not absolve PBS of its responsibility to inspect work and ensure that it is performed in accordance with PBS and CDC guidance,’ the IG said. “Accordingly, PBS should review, enhance, and modify contractor oversight plans to ensure that contractors are performing COVID-19 cleaning and disinfection services in accordance with PBS and CDC guidance.”

The IG finished its audit of select federal buildings in May, but said the issues remain relevant. 

“As the cases continue to occur across the country and federal employees return to facilities in greater numbers, it is critical that PBS follow its own procedures and engage in close coordination with its tenant agencies in order to limit exposure to and spread of COVID-19,” the IG said. 

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s panel on Government Operations, called it “unconscionable” that GSA did not promptly notify employees of COVID-19 cases in their buildings. 

“This alert memorandum demonstrates the risk of this administration’s failure to have a coherent and universal plan for reopening the federal government,” Connolly said. “This patchwork approach has resulted in a failure to clearly and quickly share positive COVID-19 cases, threatening the health and safety of federal workers, contractors, building occupants, and the public.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.