Homeland Security secretary working virtually after contact with employee who tested positive for Covid-19

After coming into close contact with a Department of Homeland Security employee who later tested positive for Covid-19, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will work virtually this week, according to a department spokesperson.

“The Secretary has no symptoms and has tested negative twice. Official DHS contact tracing is underway,” DHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Marsha Espinosa said in a statement Tuesday.

The recommendations were “informed by the Office of the DHS Chief Medical Officer and are driven by an overabundance of caution,” she added.

Mayorkas is fully vaccinated, according to Espinosa, who did not provide information on the employee’s vaccination status.

President Joe Biden will announce on Thursday a requirement that all federal employees and contractors be vaccinated against Covid-19 or be required to submit to regular testing and mitigation requirements, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

Mayorkas participated remotely in a congressional hearing on Tuesday. Earlier Tuesday, DHS announced it had postponed the secretary’s’ inaugural 2021 State of Homeland Security address, which had been scheduled for Thursday as an in-person event.

The secretary’s work arrangements were first reported by Politico.

In Tuesday’s address, Mayorkas had planned to lay out his vision for the department’s next chapter, discuss the evolving threats of the 21st century and the department’s mission and values, according to a DHS announcement.

It’s unclear when the event will take place or if it will be held remotely. The State of Homeland Security address is typically an opportunity for secretaries to provide the public with an update on the threat environment facing the US and their vision for the department.

Speaking remotely during Tuesday’s Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Mayorkas said the Biden administration is assessing whether pandemic-era nonessential travel restrictions on US borders can be eased in a “limited way.”

Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan asked Mayorkas about the restrictions and whether they could be tailored, given Canada’s decision to reopen to American travelers.

“We are looking at all the different ways that we can compartmentalize the issue and see whether we can allow certain flows or ease certain restrictions in a limited way without imperiling the public health and safety of the American people, as well as the people in Canada. This is something we’re looking at very carefully and in many different ways,” Mayorkas said.

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