Marine being treated for coronavirus worked at defense agency near Pentagon, officials say

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Marine in the Washington, D.C., area who has tested positive for the coronavirus worked for an important defense agency headquartered just blocks from the Pentagon, U.S. officials told Reuters on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The disclosure about the Marine’s workplace, known as the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), came as the Pentagon said seven active-duty U.S. service members were being tested for the virus after being considered “patients under investigation.”

The DSCA did not respond to a request for comment. Reuters was first to report the Marine’s workplace.

The Marine, who traveled on official business to Ethiopia, is the latest of only three U.S. service members who have tested positive so far for the virus. He is being treated at a military hospital at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, in the Washington suburbs.

The Marine was living with his family at Marine Corps Base Quantico, which said in an online post that base schools were being closed until March 11 to allow time for a thorough cleaning.

The base said his family and personnel in contact with him “have been identified and do not show symptoms.”

It was unclear whether the DSCA, which is headquartered in Crystal City, Virginia, was taking any precautionary steps since the Marine tested positive for the virus.

Two of the officials said the Marine worked in Crystal City, as opposed to another DSCA location. The Marine’s workplace has not been previously reported, and there was no indication on the DSCA website of any alert to employees.

Air Force Brigadier General Paul Friedrichs, the senior health official for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was not aware of any visits by the Marine to the Pentagon.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper is expected to approve additional steps in the coming days to better safeguard the Pentagon, one of the world’s largest office buildings where some 22,000 people work everyday.

In a sign of the kinds of strategies being employed, Esper held a regular morning meeting with senior leaders on Monday partly by using video conferencing technology – so that conference rooms were not as packed with people, the Pentagon said.

Instead of everybody being packed into the same room, they were spread out among several rooms.

“We’re encouraging everybody to practice good social distancing using their judgment and within the bounds of what we can do to continue to do the job,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.

“The effort this morning was to show that we can continue to do this while practicing risk prevention measures.”

Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

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