The VA Will Now Let Some Administrative Staff Work From Home

This article was produced in partnership with ProPublica. New Mexico In Depth is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reversed course to allow some administrative staff to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Saturday memo obtained by New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica. “Managers and supervisors are encouraged to maximize telework during regular business hours, as appropriate,” wrote Richard A. Stone, the Veterans Health Administration’s executive in charge. The memo was sent to the VHA’s senior leadership on Saturday, one day after New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica reported that Stone had banned such telework authorizations, citing concerns that too many people working from home could overwhelm the VA computer network.

Albuquerque VA Medical Center Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

An Albuquerque Veterans Affairs Medical Center employee tested positive for COVID-19 on March 12, a VA spokeswoman confirmed to New Mexico In Depth Wednesday morning — nearly a week after the hospital received that test result. 

The state Department of Health confirmed Wednesday morning that the infected employee was a physician. That physician was a close household member of a person who had traveled recently, a spokesman wrote in an email. The VA on Wednesday morning declined to confirm the employee’s profession, citing privacy concerns. 

“The facility is currently awaiting confirmatory results from the Centers for Disease Control,” VA spokeswoman Paula Aragon wrote in an email following repeated requests for information. “Due to privacy concerns, we cannot provide additional information.”

However, the NMDOH announced last week that tests “no longer need to be verified positive by the CDC.”

New Mexico In Depth obtained a March 17 e-mail authored by Medical Center Director Andrew M. Welch to VA staff noting that both the employee and those VA staff and patients “who had significant exposure” to the employee were sent home for 14 days of quarantine and home monitoring by the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH). No patients or staff who were similarly isolated at home because of contact with this employee have developed symptoms, Aragon reported Wednesday morning.