The Catholic University Of America
November 2, 2001
Dear parents and friends of Catholic University,
I am writing to provide you with an update on how Catholic University is continuing to respond to the anthrax threat that has affected U.S. government postal facilities.
As the Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., President of Catholic University, indicated in his Oct. 24 Web site letter to you, we have no evidence to suggest that any of our students, faculty or staff have been exposed to anthrax.
Nevertheless, to ensure the safety and well-being of our campus community – particularly our postal employees – we have taken a pro-active approach in investigating, assessing and implementing prudent precautionary measures.
When word of the anthrax contamination at an off-campus mail sorting facility in Brentwood, Maryland, became public, university officials contacted U.S. Postal Service (USPS), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and D.C. Health Department officials and aggressively pursued arrangements to have our postal employees included in evaluation and prophylactic treatment measures that were being offered to USPS mail handlers at D.C. General Hospital. This process was concluded on Oct. 24 and all our postal employees began taking antibiotic medicine as a precaution.
As of November 1, the USPS, D.C. Department of Health and CDC have not identified the CUA Cardinal Station postal facility as a testing site or priority, and the CDC maintains that there is a need to sample only some – not all – sites that received mail from the Brentwood facility. The actual testing protocols remain preliminary, as the CDC works with associated laboratories to develop them further. The CDC has tested the local Brookland post office – the one closest to CUA’s campus – and the results were negative for anthrax. Brookland had been receiving all of its area mail from Brentwood.
The university administration decided, as part of its pro-active approach, to secure appropriate independent environmental testing of CUA Cardinal Station. A private company we hired conducted such a test on Oct. 29. Surface and air samples were taken in the two rooms that house our post office. Testing samples were sent to a qualified lab for analysis, using CDC protocols, and the university expects to receive results soon. The university consults regularly with USPS, CDC and other health officials to follow their recommendations and to continue to take prudent precautionary measures.
The university administration is periodically asked to address questions regarding whether antibiotic treatment should be expanded to include additional members of the campus community and whether testing of individuals should be conducted. The USPS, D.C. Department of Health and CDC continue to limit evaluation and prophylactic treatment to the primary mail handling and sorting personnel at private and public facilities. They are not providing antibiotics to individuals who are one or more steps removed from the primary mail sorting function. The government halted testing of individuals (e.g., nasal swabbing) some days ago, after concluding that the results were misleading.
Cardinal Station continues to receive mail deliveries. However, mail volumes have fallen off significantly and have not returned to normal. The director of our postal service is in contact with USPS representatives daily to address this issue.
We will continue to provide you with updates on the situation via the CUA Web site. If you are a parent, we ask that you communicate your concerns and questions directly to your child, who can work with the appropriate staff to have them addressed.
On behalf of the postal services staff, I would like to thank everyone for the respect and patience they have demonstrated. I want to assure our community, friends and families that we remain committed to preserving the health and welfare of all our students, faculty, staff and campus guests.
Vice President for Administration