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DC VA Medical Center employee dies from Covid-19, 52 others test positive

Employees at Veterans Affairs facilities in Maryland, D.C., Virginia & West Virginia tell WUSA9 that PPE is in shortly supply. VA says that's not true.

WASHINGTON — The two top Veterans Affairs appropriators in the House and Senate are blasting President Trump for failing to protect Veterans and VA employees amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Congresswman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) is the Ranking Member on the Senate Appropriations Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee. 

“We understand that due to the delay in activation and method in which your administration is utilizing the Defense Production Act, VA does not have adequate PPE," the two said in a joint letter to President Trump.

"It is tragic that due to your Administration’s disorganized response and failure to use its full powers under the Defense Production Act, VA, states, other federal agencies, and public hospitals simply are not equipped with the PPE that they need to treat the impacted population. Fully invoking the Defense Production Act could prevent this moving forward,” the letter said.

Read the entire letter HERE.

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WUSA9 has been reporting on federal agencies' coronavirus response since the pandemic began. 

Fifty-two employees of the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center have tested positive for COVID-19 and one employee has passed away, according to an email from a D.C. VAMC spokesperson.

"In accordance with CDC guidelines and the employees’ clinical status, the individuals (employees who tested positive) are currently in-home isolation, mitigating further risk of transmission to other patients and staff. Due to privacy concerns, we cannot provide additional information," said D.C. VAMC spokeswoman Sarah Cox.

"We have lost one of our employees, who was not directly involved in caring for veterans with COVID-19, to COVID-19 complications. Due to privacy concerns, we cannot provide additional information," said Cox.

Employees of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Martinsburg, West Virginia and Baltimore have shared stories about being denied appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and the ability to work remotely. 

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Last week, Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) Tim Kaine, (D-Virginia) and three others wrote a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie asking about the amount of PPE on hand for employees. 

"We have also heard from a number of our constituents who are employees at VA facilities, who think they are not being provided adequate PPE in their jobs and fear for their personal health and safety," the Senators wrote. "Employees report being asked to use one N95 mask for up to a week, which manufacturers recommend be changed each shift at a minimum." 

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