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State Department enters next phase of reopening

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Washington (CNN)The US State Department entered the second phase of its reopening plan this week, despite an increase in coronavirus cases in and around the nation's capital.

The move to enter Phase 2 of "Diplomacy Strong," which allows up to 80% of employees to return to work onsite, drew swift opposition from the American Foreign Service Association and seemed to contradict the State Department's own guidelines for bringing staff back into the office.
Some State Department officials have expressed concern about pressure to come back into the office to suit the Trump administration's reopening agenda, with some senior officials reportedly calling a return to work "patriotic."
A State Department spokesperson said the department moved the facilities in the National Capital Region to Phase 2 "(a)fter carefully assessing the local conditions and in close coordination with the Bureau of Medical Service."
"Employees who are in vulnerable populations are not required to return to the office. During this phase, telework flexibilities are still encouraged, given childcare, eldercare, and transportation concerns," the spokesperson said. "All employees are to abide by social distancing guidelines and face covering mandates when at Department facilities."
A senior State Department official told CNN prior to the move to Phase 2 that a return to work would be based on medical conditions, local conditions and operational conditions, including "a downward trend for at least 14 days." Confirmed cases of coronavirus in DC, Maryland and Virginia have been on an upward trend for weeks.
 

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