USDA shut down an office complex in Kansas City, Mo., due to a potential COVID-19 infection contracted during a Farm Service Agency conference held there from March 10 to March 13.

In an email to the Beacon facility staff, USDA's undersecretary for farm production and conservation, Bill Northey, said an employee who attended the conference “may have contracted COVID-19.”

“Although the employee’s diagnosis is not confirmed at this time, USDA’s priority is the health of our employees and the public,” Northey said. “To help ensure the safety of the public and USDA employees, effective Thursday, March 19, we have closed the Beacon facility to employees and visitors.  For employees who work in the Beacon Facility, please contact your supervisor for additional information about your work assignment and telework options.”

A USDA spokesperson told Agri-Pulse the department "has been notified that an FSA employee in South Dakota may have contracted COVID-19."

"To help ensure the safety of the public and USDA employees, USDA has closed its office in Mitchell, S.D., and its Beacon Facility in Kansas City, Mo., where the employee attended training earlier this month – employees are now on telework or leave, depending on their individual work situation," the spokesperson said. "Both facilities will remain closed until we can further assess the situation and properly clean facilities as directed" by the Centers for Disease Control.

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Northey said the conference “was located on the ground floor of Beacon, but the employee visited other parts of the building."

“Once a thorough cleaning has been completed, we will update you on the status of reopening the Beacon Facility,” Northey said. “This is to ensure the health and safety of our employees while continuing the effectiveness of our department’s mission.”

The Beacon Complex houses employees of the Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency, Economic Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, as well as the USDA Credentialing Center.

An employee with knowledge of the situation said the conference was for FSA employees and was attended by about 300 people, but that could not be independently confirmed. USDA says it was attended by about 100 people.

This story was updated at 6:18 p.m. ET with a statement from USDA. It was updated March 23 with USDA's information abut the number of people at the conference.

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