BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos National Laboratory has had 2,068 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,643 fully recovered, according to numbers released Friday. On-site testing continues with a cumulative total of 31,950 tests to date, 592 positives from this testing. Approximately 52 percent of employees continues to telework as of Friday.
LANL numbers indicate that there were 312 new cases between December 17 and Jan. 10, with an additional 342 cases between Jan. 11 and Jan. 14.
Employees told the Los Alamos Reporter last week that there were extensive delays for staff returning from the holidays because they were not allowed to go onto Lab property until they checked in with the COVID-19 hotline and received clearance. Some employees were at home for several days awaiting that clearance.
A Lab spokesperson told the Reporter Friday in an email that support staff have been added at the Laboratory to address employees’ calls for information as COVID-19 cases rise nationwide.
“The health and safety of our workforce remains our foremost priority. The Laboratory continues to observe precautions to protect our workforce, and we are well positioned to fulfill our national security mission,” the spokesperson said.
In an email to employees Friday, LANL Director Thom Mason noted that LANL is carefully monitoring transmission rates in the LANL population.
“This has resulted in record numbers of calls to our COVID-19 hotline. In response we have doubled the staff and trained additional Laboratory employees to address the large volume of calls,” he said.
Mason said in addition to testing employees who are symptomatic, LANL is testing close contacts and identifying positive cases for isolation and negative cases for safe return to work.
“Fortunately, the surge in cases has not translated into severe illness for the vast number of people who are vaccinated and boosted, and Laboratory cases have been consistent with this pattern,” he said.
Mason noted that all LANL managers have been given the authority to adjust their organization’s on-site presence to address the current COVID-19 environment. He said each organization should consider whether work can be accomplished off-site and should consider options such as splitting shifts to reduce transmission opportunities and preserve essential functions to get the mission done.
Mason said trends in other states and countries suggest that local cases are likely to peak in the next couple of weeks.
“We are monitoring the situation carefully, including hospital capabilities and school arrangements; should we need to make further changes to our posture we will do so,” he said.