These ‘mission critical’ federal employees and contractors are still reporting to the office. They’re terrified they’ll get sick.
The passport specialists, many earning overtime, are whittling down a backlog that had doubled by January to 1.2 million after the Trump administration froze hiring to 2016 levels, officials say. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered the staff to keep working during the novel coronavirus pandemic to ensure the pileup of applications comes down by the time travel returns to normal and President Trump faces reelection, an agency official said.They’re not the only ones. Thousands of federal employees and contractors are still badging in to offices they worry have turned into petri dishes — whether they’re answering phones for the Internal Revenue Service in a cubicle farm in Covington, Ky., or reading intelligence streams in a special facility at the Pentagon where the government keeps classified information.This large swath of the workforce is keeping many operations afloat during the crisis. They’re not on laptops in the safe space of their homes, either because their roles are not telework-ready or their managers are nervous they’ll be out of sight. They’re not in crucial health and safety roles inspecting meat, caring for veterans, securing prisons or providing security for the president.Federal officials have said protecting their employees is their highest priority. But