USAGM WATCH COMMENTARY

Hopefully senior Voice of America (VOA) management has stopped by now all non-essential travel to prevent exposure to the COVID-19 virus by journalists who are essential U.S. government employees of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).

USAGM Watch reported earlier that a person who recently attended the NICAR20 conference in New Orleans tested presumptively positive March 10 with COVID-19.

Today Investigative Reporters & Editors announced on their website that a second NICAR20 attendee has received a presumptively positive test result for the COVID-19 virus. The IRE announcement says that IRE learned about this today (March 16). “The attendee feels better and expects a full recovery,” IRE said. IRE did not say whether the patient or doctors informed them of this prognosis.

IRE also made this announcement that may put other attendees and their families and acquaintances at risk: “The attendee has asked to remain private. To protect those privacy rights, IRE will not release the person’s conference schedule or cross-check it against other attendee schedules. In addition, IRE doesn’t want to give anyone a false sense of security.”

At the very least, IRE should have informed other attendees who may have been in contact with the two patients.

Updated [By IRE] March 16, 1:30 p.m.

A second NICAR20 attendee has received a presumptively positive test result for the COVID-19 virus, IRE learned today (March 16). The attendee feels better and expects a full recovery.

The attendee traveled from inside the United States to New Orleans for the conference. They arrived Wednesday evening (March 4) and left Monday (March 9). The attendee stayed at the conference hotel but did not use the pool or fitness center. IRE has sent separate notification to people who participated in a pre-registration hands-on data class with the individual.

On Saturday (March 7), the attendee developed a persistent cough, shortness of breath and nasal congestion. The attendee saw a doctor on Tuesday morning (March 10) and received a diagnosis of pneumonia. On Thursday (March 12), the attendee received a positive test result for the novel coronavirus. The attendee was told that the Centers for Disease Control would contact IRE. When it was clear that had not happened, the attendee reached out directly to IRE on Monday afternoon (March 16).

Since the COVID-19 diagnosis, the attendee’s state health department has notified anyone they had close contact with during the conference. Based on the onset of symptoms, the attendee could have contracted the virus before or during the conference. Symptoms can appear within two to 14 days of exposure, and in some cases do not appear at all, according to the CDC.

The attendee has asked to remain private. To protect those privacy rights, IRE will not release the person’s conference schedule or cross-check it against other attendee schedules. In addition, IRE doesn’t want to give anyone a false sense of security. Given what we’ve all learned recently about COVID-19, it seems likely that far more people across the country have been infected with it than any of us realized. For those of us who traveled through airports, sat on planes and interacted with lots of people before, during and after the NICAR conference, there’s a chance that we encountered someone along the way who was carrying the novel coronavirus.

If you have concerns or questions about your own health, the CDC recommends that you contact your medical provider, explain the situation and seek professional medical advice.

The first attendee with a presumptive positive test for COVID-19 is still awaiting word from the CDC on whether their result has been confirmed.

READ MORE AND MONITOR IRE FOR UPDATES

If VOA and USAGM management approved any non-essential travel in recent weeks or days, or in case of potential interest of how other organizations are handling the coronavirus crisis, we are re-posting a tweet and additional information from Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. for employees. Clink on the link to the IRE website page article, “IRE monitors NICAR20 coronavirus developments,” for more details about the first NICAR20 patient.

Clink on the link to the IRE page article “Second NICAR20 attendee tests presumptively positive for novel coronavirus” about the second NICAR20 attendee case.

A person who attended the NICAR20 conference in New Orleans tested presumptively positive March 10 with COVID-19.  Keep checking the IRE website for any updates.

Updated March 12, 1 p.m. by IRE

The spouse of the NICAR20 attendee with a presumptively positive COVID-19 test result has tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

The attendee is still awaiting word from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on whether the initial test result has been verified at the federal level. That process can take up to a week. The attendee had the test performed on Monday (March 9) and received the presumptive positive result the next day. The test was then sent to CDC for confirmation.

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