The USDA shut down part of its mammoth Washington headquarters after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus. It also announced that “maximized telework is available for NCR (National Capital Region) employees” beginning Tuesday.
Thousands of USDA’s 92,000 employees work in the Washington region. Although a USDA spokesperson did not say how many were affected nor identify the building where the infected employee worked, Agri-Pulse reported it was in the USDA South Building. One of the north-south corridors in the building, which are 400 feet long, was closed for cleaning.
The South Building was constructed during the Depression and was the largest office building in the world until the Pentagon was built during World War II. As many as 6,800 people work in the South Building, which is across Independence Avenue from the USDA administration building. The Forest Service headquarters is on the west side of the South Building. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and his deputies work in the headquarters complex. The USDA is the only federal department with offices on the national Mall.
Besides the headquarters complex, the USDA operates a large experiment station and the National Agricultural Library in the Maryland suburbs. Most of the employees who run public nutrition programs are quartered in the Virginia suburbs.