Supervisors at the Pentagon Reservation just outside Washington, D.C., were instructed to “strongly encourage” maximum telework for their employees under a Dec. 27 memo issued by Michael Donley, special assistant to the secretary of defense for protocol.

That strong encouragement should last through the end of January 2022 and includes a maximization of virtual meetings and a total ban on unofficial visitors to the worksite. The agency will also remove food court seating as of Jan. 3.

“We have seen an increase in coronavirus disease 2019 and positive test results in the National Capitol Region in recent weeks,” Donley wrote. “Additional mitigation measures will be implemented on the Pentagon Reservation to protect the workforce and our support to the no-fail mission of the Department of Defense. We will continually assess health protection measures and will update this guidance, as appropriate.”

The Pentagon did not change its health protection condition status, which currently sits at Bravo+. The agency’s most severe classification is HPCON D, while HPCON A represents limited spread of the virus.

The HPCON B+ designation represents a level of community spread that does not quite warrant moving up to the HPCON C level, but requires more stringent attention than a standard HPCON B status.

“While the Pentagon Reservation remains at HPCON Bravo+, organizations are expected to maintain occupancy rates at less than 40% of normal occupancy, subject to the exceptions approved by my office,” Donley wrote. “Effectively immediately, all previously approved exceptions for occupancy limits over 60% are now capped at 60%, through the end of January 2022, in order to protect the workforce and preserve mission effectiveness.”

Cases of COVID-19 in Washington have skyrocketed in recent weeks, with the city hitting a record daily case rate of 273.6 cases per every 100,000 members of the population as of Dec. 25. Substantial community spread in the city is classified at 16 cases per 100,000 members of the population.

The highly transmissible omicron variant of COVID-19 has driven a surge in cases across the U.S., with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that the variant made up approximately 58.6% of all new cases during the week leading up to Christmas.

Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.

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