Facebook Closes Seattle Office After Worker Tests Positive For Coronavirus

An equipment service worker for King County Metro, sprays Virex II 256, a disinfectant, throughout a metro bus on March 4, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: Getty Images)

A Facebook worker in Seattle has tested positive for the novel coronavirus that has infected at least 150 people on U.S. soil and killed 11 in Washington and California. Facebook employees in the Seattle area are being told to work from home.

“A contractor based in our Stadium East office has been diagnosed with the COVID-19,” a spokesperson told Bloomberg News in a statement, using the official name of the disease caused by the coronavirus. “We’ve notified our employees and are following the advice of public health officials to prioritise everyone’s health and safety.”

The infected Facebook worker last visited the Seattle office on Feb. 21, according to Bloomberg, which broke the story late Wednesday. That office will be closed until at least March 9. Facebook did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment overnight.

The Seattle area has been the hardest hit by the outbreak in the U.S., with 10 deaths in Washington state so far, and the city is becoming a relative ghost town as people become increasingly fearful about the spread of the disease. The first death outside of Washington was reported yesterday in California.

Washington state’s public lab in Shoreline now has the ability to test roughly 100 people per day, or about 200 specimens, according to health officials in King County who gave a livestreamed press conference Wednesday afternoon. Each suspected coronavirus patient generally gets two tests for the sake of accuracy, and state health departments across the country are doing their best to ramp up testing capabilities after a bungled response from the Centres For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC sent out faulty tests to state labs in the first week of February, which has left the U.S. about six weeks behind other countries in coronavirus testing.

Facebook cancelled F8, the company’s developer conference, which was scheduled for May 5 and 6 in San Jose, California. Twitter has been even more aggressive against the coronavirus threat, announcing earlier this week that all of its 4,800 employees around the world should work from home. Twitter cofounder and CEO Jack Dorsey has also cancelled his planned appearance at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, which is still scheduled to begin on Friday, March 13, despite protests from some attendees who believe it should be cancelled.

It’s a safe bet that other companies will also institute work-from-home policies as the virus continues to spread. Microsoft, for example, announced in a blog post last night that any employees in the Seattle area should work from home until at least March 25 if they’re able.

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