of Homeland Security Governor Tom Ridge
Postmaster General John E. Potter
President of the Nat'l Association of Letter Carriers Vince Sombratto
Mayor of Washington, D.C. Anthony Williams
Centers for Disease Control Representative Mitch Cohen
Deputy Surgeon General Ken Moritsugu
Press Briefing on Anthrax
White House Briefing Room
October 22, 2001
4:30 P.M. EDT
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Good afternoon. I want to update you on the anthrax situation
here in the District of Columbia and then brief you on specific steps we are
taking around the country to protect our postal workers and our citizens. The
residents of Washington, D.C., and all Americans can be confident that their
government is taking every step possible to ensure that our mail systems are
safe and that they are secure.
With me today are several federal government experts and Washington, D.C., officials.
They are here to provide to you the latest information, and then we will all
be happy to take your questions at the end.
First of all, I would like to compliment and to thank Mayor Williams and his
team for the extraordinary job they have done in responding to difficult and
challenging circumstances here in the District of Columbia. We are working seamlessly
with the Mayor and his team, and we appreciate the Mayor's leadership.
A short while ago, I briefed the President with the latest facts on the anthrax
situation, as we know them. Here are those facts. First, two postal employees
who work at the Brentwood mail facility here in Washington, D.C., have tested
positive for inhalation anthrax. Both of these workers are being treated with
antibiotics, and obviously our best wishes and prayers are with them and their
We also know that there are two very suspicious deaths that occurred today,
and here are the facts about both of these cases. These Brentwood postal workers
were seen by their doctors yesterday. Both of these workers experienced respiratory
complications, became critically ill; and tragically, ultimately, passed away.
We are still undergoing final tests to determine absolutely that these two deaths
were related to anthrax exposure. The cause of death to date is unclear. But
I'll tell you what is very clear. It is very clear that their symptoms are suspicious
and their deaths are likely due to anthrax.
I want to take a moment to talk about the aggressive and proactive treatment
regimen we are delivering to postal workers here in D.C. At the Brentwood location,
we began yesterday treating more than 2,000 workers with antibiotics while extensive
environmental testing is being conducted. We took immediate steps to treat every
worker who might have been exposed.
It is also important to note that we have taken preemptive action to treat all
workers at the Anne Arundel facility, another mail handling facility in this
area, with antibiotics. We are also conducting aggressive environmental testing
as well at the Anne Arundel facility. Now I would like to discuss with you just
a few steps that we have been taking to protect the citizens of the District
of Columbia and all Americans.
First of all, soon after the first case of anthrax surfaced, CDC placed its
medical surveillance team on the highest alert. This medical surveillance system
monitors emergency room logs every day all across this country. The purpose
of the service is to track potential trends. When we put them on the alert,
we wanted them to track trends dealing with anthrax-like symptoms. We will continue
to monitor closely any suspicious cases in emergency rooms that may arise anywhere
across the country.
Next, we are asking physicians, health care providers and hospitals around Washington,
D.C., to pay special attention to any patient who works at the Brentwood mail
And, finally, I know many citizens across America are concerned about the safety
of their mail and their post offices. That is why the President invited to meet
with him Jack Potter, who will have an opportunity to share a few words with
you -- our Postmaster General, and Vince Sombratto, the President of the National
Association of Letter Carriers.
The President expressed his admiration and his gratitude to these individuals,
to their membership, their strength of character and their commitment to their
country. I think the President said it quite clearly that we are waging this
war -- it's one war, but there are two fronts. There is a battlefield outside
this country and there is a war and a battlefield inside this country. And these
men are leading their troops and their membership in as aggressive and as a
positive way as they possibly can to respond to their challenge, their threat,
and that's the threat of anthrax.
War has two battle fronts, outside and inside the USA
I would also remind Americans that detailed information is available to help
them handle any suspicious packages or mail pieces they receive. Americans can
find checklists that give specific and detailed guidelines on how to handle
suspicious packages, accessing the U.S. Postal Service's website at http://www.usps.gov/,
or by accessing CDC's website at http://www.cdc.gov/.
The Postal Service last week also announced that they are sending a post card
to every American citizen so that they know how to handle any suspicious packages.
Now what I would like to do is to call Jack Potter, Vince Sombratto, and then
Mayor Williams, to share a few words with you, a few remarks, and then we'll
open up this panel to questions.
Mr. Potter. Jack.
MR. POTTER: Thank you, Governor Ridge, and good afternoon. Earlier today, I
was advised that two postal employees from our Brentwood mail processing and
distribution center passed away. At this point in time, we have not received
confirmation as to the cause of death. There is a strong suspicion that they
died from anthrax. Even though we have not received confirmation on how they
died, we will proceed as though anthrax was involved.
Our postal family is deeply saddened by today's news, and shaken by the thought
of terrorists using the U.S. Mail as a tool for their evil. These two postal
employees join the list of public servants who have died over the past two months
while serving their country.
Our hearts are heavy, knowing that two coworkers have become the latest victims
of terrorism. It's clear to us, like other symbols of American freedom and power,
the mail and our employees have become a target of terrorists. It is equally
clear that we must take extraordinary steps to protect them both.
We are working very hard to educate America. We're working, as Governor Ridge
talked about. We have a postcard out there that's going to every American. We
have instructions on what people should do in big mail rooms. We have a poster
that's on its way to them. We have a video available to them.
We're also investigating these crimes, and very aggressively working, our Postal
Inspection Service, the FBI, and local law enforcement are working together
to investigate and find these criminals. We are engaging the American public.
We want all of America to help us. That's why we in the Postal Service, along
with the FBI, offered a $1 million reward. It's important that everybody who
sees something suspicious, let us know. We want any lead that will lead us to
We also are extremely concerned about hoaxes. They're just disrupting the nation.
We're going to criminally prosecute and go after those who have committed hoaxes,
and we are moving ahead with intervention. We have very targeted intervention
right now to review anything that's suspicious. We also are going to introduce
technology so that we can eradicate and sanitize the mail as it moves through
Obviously, that won't happen overnight, so we need people to continue to be
In closing, I would just like to come back to our employees. Our folks have
-- are very concerned, obviously, about this. We're working very closely with
health officials at the local level, at the state level, and at the national
level, and we're working with them to do what we can to best protect our employees,
to test the employees, to test our environments, and to treat those who come
into harm's way.
In closing, again, I would just like to say that this is not a situation where
America should be pointing fingers at anyone else other than the terrorists.
This is a war the President was very clear about, and the war is the terrorists.
We are all dealing with new experiences, we're all dealing with new situations.
We're working as a team to try and deal with this ever-evolving, changing-by-the-minute
The men and women of the Postal Service are committed to moving America's mail,
but we're going to do that safely, and we're going to do that united now, because
we've lost two of our own. We're going to unite it, we're going to pray for
those folks, we're going to work with their families. This, I believe, will
bring the Postal Service together like it's never done before.
Now I'd like to turn the podium over to the President of the National Association
of Letter Carriers, Vince Sombratto, who can speak from a labor standpoint.
MR. SOMBRATTO: Thank you very much, Jack, and thank you, Governor Ridge. I'm
more than proud and privileged to represent some 240,000 active letter carriers
that deliver mail to every citizen in this great nation of ours.
On September 11th, our nation was attacked -- attacked by terrorists. Letter
carriers that worked in that immediate vicinity, whether it be in Church Street,
which was right next to the Twin Towers, or whether it be in any of the downtown
stations, never disrupted their responsibilities of working to deliver America's
mail. And neither will this heinous way of trying to intimidate the American
public, and in this case, postal employees, will that succeed in creating an
environment where letter carriers will not do their job.
We have a proud history of more than 200 years of delivering under all circumstances,
as arduous and as difficult as they may be. This is another one of those circumstances
where we have to rise to the occasion.
Just yesterday in Chicago, I spoke to more than 700 letter carriers. And I said
that, if we are fearful, if we do not return to, as the President said, our
normal way of conducting our business, then the terrorists will have won. We
cannot -- we cannot let fear be our constant companion. We will overcome this.
Letter carriers and the Postal Service will work together in a harmonious way
to see that the conditions that we work under are safe, but we will not be deterred
from doing our job.
We will rise to the occasion because, as the President just said a few moments
ago, we're all soldiers in this war, and tomorrow when I visit the site in Trenton,
New Jersey, I will pass this message along to all the letter carriers there
to say that they're in the front lines of our war against these terrorists,
and we'll do our part here as our men and women are doing in Afghanistan.
MAYOR WILLIAMS: I'm sure I join Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is
with me, Councilman Vincent Orange, representing our District Council; Ivan
Walks, who is our Health Commissioner -- all of us in thanking the President
for another in a continuing series of gestures and statements and acts of support
for our Nation's Capital. Because I think our President recognizes, as all of
us do, that our country is a country of great institutions, but these institutions
are made up of real people and real neighborhoods with real families and lives
and hopes and dreams, that these Postal workers are yet another series of workers
who, in the act of doing their duty, are in harm's way. And certainly everyone
in our city, our hearts and our prayers go out to them.
I grew up in a post office family and I know that these are real families they
we're talking about here, and the appreciate the administration's strong statement
of support. Governor Ridge, Secretary Thompson, working very closely with us
to see that we are providing on a state-of-the-art basis, as much as we know,
the best treatment for people, wherever they are, whenever they need it, however
they need it.
The second thing I would like to just add to this is to really echo what the
union president is saying, and that is to really follow the words of our President.
We have to make a strong statement as public officials about moving forward
in the aftermath of September 11th, in the aftermath of what we've seen today,
that we are a country of champions, and that you can knock a champion down but
you can't keep us down. We're going to get off the matt and we're going to show
that what our fighting men and women are out in South Asia fighting for is not
a hollow victory, but a real living, breathing, democracy, an openness and vitality
that makes a great capital city.
And I am confident that the administration is going to do everything it can,
working with local officials like the District, to see that the proper precautionary
preparatory steps are in place to ensure the health and safety of our workers
and the health and safety of our citizens.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Finally, ladies and gentlemen, when I served as a Member of
Congress, I had the opportunity to work with Mr. Sombratto and the National
Association of Letter Carriers, and get to know in a very real and human way
what they do and how hard they work and how vital the postal system is to this
country. It is one of the oldest and most venerable institutions of America.
On an annual basis, they convey, primarily within the United States, but obviously
to our friends and family across the world, over 200 billion pieces of mail.
This has been one of the most fundamental ways we have been communicating with
one another -- everything from birthday cards and greetings cards to serious
documents dealing with legal transactions. This is who were are. The postal
system is every much a part of this country as our national highway system.
And it's pretty clear that whoever decided to challenge the postal system by
using anthrax to not only disrupt service, but take the lives of the men and
women who wear uniforms. We've got men and women wearing uniforms elsewhere
around the world. We have men and women wearing uniforms in the post office.
That public service uniform still represents -- it may be different, but we
still represent the same country. And today it is pretty clear that we have
casualties -- not just offshore. We've got casualties in the Towers in New York,
we have casualties in the post office. So it's pretty clear that this speaks
to one war and two battlefields.
And I want to say to Jack Potter, I want to say to my longtime friend Vince
Sombratto, and to echo, really, the words of the President of the United States,
with whom we met prior to this meeting, briefing, with you, we admire their
courage, their will, their resolve. These men and their troops will keep working
as hard as they can to make sure that they fulfill their responsibilities to
deliver the mail.
The President of the United States and CDC and Health and Human Services and
the Surgeon General's Office, and everybody else associated with this effort,
will do everything we can to enhance whatever measures we have out there to
protect postal workers and to make sure that we work with them to get the mail
through as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
I think it's a very solemn and tragic reminder that the uniform of public service
and the possibility of dying in the line of duty is none more evident than at
Brentwood. I'm grateful for the leadership of Mr. Potter and Mr. Sombratto,
and we thank them for their strong stand and their commitment, their commitment
to make sure that the mail will be delivered. And I thank them for that.
QUESTION: Governor Ridge, when will you get back determinative cultures on the
two people who died? And, secondly, the word "terrorists" was used
a couple of times from this podium. Does that indicate now that you believe
that this is something organized, this is the work of more than one person?
And are you reconsidering your statement of last week that this was not "weaponized
anthrax," now that you have at least two or three more cases of inhalational
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Well, there's a whole bunch of questions in that question, but
it's good. It's all right; let me get back to that. First of all, let's let
the medical folks -- I still think that final definitive medical tests are still
some hours away, and I would like somebody to -- who may know more about that
than I do, Dr. Walks.
DR. WALKS: Good afternoon. We are, in fact, awaiting medical tests to confirm
the cause of death. One of those tests is as short away as is hours. We have
a positive blood culture that is suspicious for anthrax, confirmatory tests
are underway. The other tests are a little bit further away, but the tests are
underway. You also talked a little bit about the word "weaponized."
QUESTION: And terrorists.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: And terrorists. Well, whether it's -- they are a group of isolated
attacks or a collective attack, I mean, we just view those individuals, whether
they be foreign or domestic, who work either in concert with one another or
independently as terrorists. I mean, the FBI is moving as aggressively as they
can, the Postmaster General has his own inspection crew. We have drawn no conclusion
about that, but we stand by our statement they are terrorists acts.
I just want to say to you very respectfully, I don't think "weaponize"
is a medical term or necessarily helpful. It doesn't add -- I think it adds
more confusion to our discussion than clarity. And so all I can tell you today
is the information I have available to me today, as we speak today -- remember,
science means there is more testing and there are still other things we need
to learn about the use of anthrax -- but as we meet today, the strains are the
same and I have no additional information to give you.
QUESTION: Some of the workers, the postal workers who worked at the Brentwood
facility, are asking two questions. Number one, since the Daschle letter would
have originated there, they want to know why that facility wasn't closed sooner.
And they also want to know why the workers themselves weren't tested sooner.
And the Postal Service spokeswoman, I think earlier, said that they were following
the advice of the Centers for Disease Control. So were federal officials a little
slow in responding to the threat here?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I think we will always look to, whether it's this threat or
any other threat, move to hasten, move as quickly as we possibly can. But let
me give you the sequence of events as I know them, and we'll let the officials
from the CDC or the Post Office talk about it.
They followed the line back as aggressively, as quickly, as they could. If the
envelope was in the Senator's office, that means it went to -- it came out of
the Dirksen Building. If it came out of the Dirksen Building, previous to that
it had been at the Post Office on P Street. P Street, as I understand it, was
tested environmentally, but the tests were negative.
In order to get to P Street, it has to come through the Brentwood Post Office.
Thereafter, immediately, they put everybody -- the hospitals and everybody else
-- on alert to see if anybody presented themselves with symptoms.
So I think they moved back, followed the chain as quickly as they possibly can.
Obviously we are going to do everything we can every time to expedite that,
but I think they moved quickly, as quick as they could.
QUESTION: A question here, sir. Is it possible that the machines used to clean
the sorting -- that the air hoses used to clean the mail sorting machines could
have been a factor in the spread of spores at the Brentwood station?
And when exactly did the P Street facility test negative for the presence of
anthrax? I don't know if that was mentioned.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I have no personal familiarity with how those machines work
in terms of the spreading, but whatever -- I think we have to keep our eyes
open to any device that may be employed in the processing of mail that it may
have disseminated it.
But I can't speak to that and perhaps somebody else can. And I'll let someone
else who was involved with the investigation back -- Daschle's office to the
Dirksen mail room, Dirksen to the Post Office at P Street -- to answer that
question for you.
MR. POTTER: Let me address the process for machines. The Postal Service has
used a system where we blow out dust from our machines, so we are revising those
procedures as we speak. I will let somebody from the medical community talk
about the P Street.
DEPUTY SURGEON GENERAL MORITSUGU: Initially, the environmental testing of the
P Street facility did not prove positive. But as you are aware, a couple of
days ago we had received some final evaluation of the environmental testing
which showed that one strapper on the P Street facility did test positive. And
for that reason, we had pursued that at that time.
We are taking it one step at a time to determine what, in fact, we ought to
be doing as far as tracing back, very systematically following the science.
And that's where we had been at that point.
QUESTION: Governor, I would like to ask the Postmaster General a question. Sir,
out in the real world, a lot of people are worried, not only about packages,
were they to open a letter or a package, but are worried also about the letters
that they have received. Can anthrax be transmitted through the covers of letters
or the envelopes, not the inside? That's my question.
MR. POTTER: Well, we have been advised that if it is a sealed envelope, that
it would not transmit anthrax. But, again, I am not the medical expert. I will
turn to the medical folks to answer that question.
MR. COHEN: Much of what we have determined has been from the previous investigations.
This is really a new phenomena. At first, we had no evidence that any of the
mail handlers were at risk, so this phenomena of first having skin disease in
New Jersey and now having inhalational disease is an evolution.
Now, how it is actually occurring isn't clear, and that is part of our epidemiologic
investigation is to try to track down what are those kinds of exposures and
try to eliminate them so that we can make things safer.
QUESTION: I have a question for General Potter and Mr. Sombratto. The Postmaster
General earlier today said he would be installing sanitization equipment. I
was wondering what type and where it would be first installed. And also, Mr.
Sombratto, if you would comment on how does he feel about letter carriers. Should
they be wearing gloves, and how does that appear to the recipient of mail when
their letter carrier comes to the door wearing gloves?
MR. POTTER: Let me speak to the first question. We have our procurement people,
our engineers, out visiting vendors today to determine where that equipment
is and how quickly we can get it into our facilities. We're also looking at
equipment that exists throughout America to treat fruit, to treat meat, and
we're going to look to see whether or not we can access that equipment so that
we can begin to immediately sanitize the mail.
QUESTION: You're talking about sanitizing not just the surface, but the contents,
MR. POTTER: I'm not talking radiation, I'm talking ultraviolet light. And there
are experts here who can talk about it. But it's a system that's safe. It's
used on food, it's used on surgical equipment and medical supplies, so we're
very comfortable that it's a safe technology.
QUESTION: UV only treats the surface, not the contents?
MR. POTTER: Again, it's the technology -- I'm not a technology expert. I'm told
that these folks have technology that will -- can be brought to bear to address
the anthrax issue.
QUESTION: Governor, are we confident that there was only one letter that passed
through the Brentwood facility? Could there be more, and is the investigation
ongoing in that respect?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: The investigation remains -- very aggressive. I can't tell you
the number of people they have assigned, both within the post office and the
FBI, on the investigation right now. Again, as this evolves, and that's what
we're dealing with, as this evolves, it does appear right now that the thesis
today, based on the facts we know, is probably the same letter. But we don't
know that to an absolute certainty that I could stand up before you today and
say I'm 100 percent certain today and I'll be 100 percent certain a year from
now it was one letter.
That's why they're not only trying to deal with the potentially affected post
office employees, but we're trying to find the source and determine if there
was one or multiple sources. So we do not have that information out. But right
now, it is consistent with the theory that this one letter could have contaminated
the whole system. Whether there's others, we don't know.
QUESTION: Have you considered curtailing the mail delivery in Washington because
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Never. I don't make those final decisions, but I'm talking to
Jack Potter and Mr. Sombratto. I'll let them tell you what they think.
MR. POTTER: No, we don't intend to curtail mail delivery. We're not going to
be defeated. I mean, the people -- keep in mind, we have 208 billion pieces
of mail a year, we've delivered some 20 billion since September 11th. We do
and we are pushing an awareness campaign. We are pushing an intervention campaign,
and an investigation campaign.
We have no intent to stop delivery of the mail, unless we have a situation where
people -- where we suspect anthrax, and obviously then we'll pull back.
Mr. Sombratto; his members carry it.
MR. SOMBRATTO: That's a long time for me to answer a question. That's unusual
for me. No, the letter carriers have the option of whether they want to wear
gloves or not, and I can say without any equivocation that most carriers haven't
been wearing gloves up until this point. Until there is evidence that clearly
suggests that they must wear gloves. It is optional for the carrier to make
that determination. At this point, most carriers have not worn gloves in the
delivery of mail.
QUESTION: Are you going to test people -- the public who were at the Brentwood
MR. SOMBRATTO: Am I going to tell the public --
QUESTION: Can you test members of the public who was at Brentwood facility in
the last week?
MR. SOMBRATTO: Yes. In fact, two of the employees that work for my organization
that conduct business at the Postal Service -- our mail -- we send a lot of
mail through the mail stream -- have been tested now because they go to Brentwood
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Let me tell you, I think something needs to be clarified. I
can't tell you today whether anybody that has been to any of the testing sites
have been customers of the Post Office who may have used the Brentwood facility.
But we would -- and others may have -- Dr. Walks may have talked about that.
DR. WALKS: We are following the science, putting the health of the public first.
There is a danger of over-treating where there is not a clear indication to
treat. The science today is that we are treating members of the public who have
been working in that back work area.
It is important to be clear on that. Some folks from the federal government,
our own Department of Health, have been working back there. Members of the media
have gone back there to work. If you have been back in that work area, you are
within the treatment perimeter.
But people who have not been in that work area, the members of the public, should
be clear that we now feel the treatment perimeter is the back work area at Brentwood,
not the public areas in the front.
QUESTION: Putting aside the word "weaponized" from last week, you
reported on Friday that the FBI had told you that these letters were indistinguishable.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Correct.
QUESTION: Do you have any reason at all to update that information, that maybe
the spores were manipulated in some way?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I do not, at this time. As I reported -- and you're right, I
did use the word "indistinguishable." And there is nothing that we
know now that would have me change that answer. I'll give you the same answer
to the same question.
QUESTION: What is the suspicion at the Anne Arundel facility that you said is
going to be tested? And also, who makes that final decision on whether an additional
facility will be closed and that people there will be tested? Is that the CDC's
decision or is the postal authorities' decision?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: All the decisions with regard to the closing of the Postal facilities,
at the offices on the Hill, AMI, they are all made in concert with public health
officials, CDC, local elected officials, and others. So, again, it is a very
collaborative process, and that is one that I think has proven to work very,
very successfully in these venues, and it will continue to work very successfully.
QUESTION: And the second part of the question?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: The Anne Arundel? I know, but I'll let the Postmaster General
MR. POTTER: The first employee that we suspected of having anthrax had a job
where he went from the Brentwood facility to the facility up right outside of
Baltimore, and as a result of that, we took a precautionary measure of closing
both facilities. He had a recollection of something happening in that facility
in Baltimore. We now, obviously based on the scientific evidence, believe that
if there was an incident, it occurred in the Brentwood facility. But we proceeded
to take those employees, have them tested and have them treated as a precautionary
QUESTION: Now that we have discovered that anthrax can be carried, apparently
not just inside an envelope but perhaps on the surface as well, two questions.
First, is that something that the CDC or others should have known before this?
And second, how does this change the calculus in terms of who you treat, who
gets Cipro, who on the Hill who was not on the fifth floor or the sixth floor
and was not there when the envelope was opened may have been exposed to anthrax?
And how does this affect treatment going forward, if you have this much wider
threat of anthrax being carried on the envelope, and not just inside of it?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Well, let me just answer the first part of that question. I
think from the very beginning CDC and every other public health official has
said that there are three ways that you can be exposed to the anthrax disease:
you can inhale it, you can absorb it, or you can consume it. So it's not --
your question suggests that cutaneous anthrax was newly discovered, but I think
the literature, the scientific literature, has always said those are the three
ways that it can affect your system.
The medical answers, I will defer to the medical community -- medical questions
I will defer to the medical community. Dr. Cohen?
DR. COHEN: I think, with respect to the inhalational disease, what you are worried
about is an aerosol. So things that disturb the envelope, that could generate,
say, a puff of the powder, is going to be the greatest risk for people around
them. The fact that there may be leakage, you may have material on the outside,
would allow people to become colonized on their skin, and then potentially get
DEPUTY SURGEON GENERAL MORITSUGU: There was a follow-on question involved in
that. And while we continue to monitor the various pieces of information that
we are getting back in on Capitol Hill, there has been no indication for us
to change our recommendation to focus the treatment to that area of Hart on
the fifth and sixth floors.
That is where we have found the positive nasal swabs. That is where there was
the specific anthrax spill. And at this point, there is no indication for us
to change that specific recommendation. Clearly, we continue to do the monitoring
and continue to do the assessment, and as things change, as information changes,
that may have an impact upon the recommendation that we make to the congressional
I would like to make one follow-on comment if I could, and that is that I think
we are all extremely upset over the death of these two postal workers, and the
three deaths that we have seen here in the United States recently. The Secretary,
Tommy Thompson, and all of us in the Department of Health and Human Services
have committed to dedicating the resources of the entire department to tracking
down the basis, the scientific basis, for how we can identify as well as treat
Please put it in perspective as well. And that is that it is fundamentally an
infectious disease. It is an infectious disease like the flu is an infectious
disease. The difference is that this disease is being spread by an individual
or individuals, we don't know.
Put it in the context that, this year, there will be 10,000 individuals who
will die from the flu alone. We see the deaths, and we are disturbed by those
deaths. What we have to see is the other side: the number of individuals whose
deaths we will be able to prevent by monitoring and by intervening as early
as we can. And we are trying to follow the science along those lines.
QUESTION: Governor Ridge, can you tell me whether or not any of the private
courier services are also being monitored, such as FedEx or --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I'm sorry, I --
QUESTION: Are the private mail-carrying services being monitored? You know,
FedEx, UPS, et cetera?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: They have obviously been on alert, national alert like everybody
else. But I can't tell you whether they, themselves, have deployed any additional
procedures other than those that have been recommended, or if they have gone
out and purchased any additional equipment. I think that inquiry would be appropriate
QUESTION: Have you stopped any letters that have not been delivered, that you
have discovered have anthrax? In other words, have you found anthrax in any
other letters, other than the ones that you have identified? Any that have not
GOVERNOR RIDGE: As of today, the letters that are part of the public comment
and the public discussion and the public response are the only letters that
have been identified as having anthrax.
QUESTION: To follow up on that, by saying "part of the public discussion,"
are you saying there may be other letters?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: No. To my knowledge, as the Director of the Office of Homeland
Security, those are the only letters that we are working on, that we are aware
of. Now, as we continue the investigation into other places, we may discover
others. But to date, as of now, given the investigation that has been done,
there are no others.
QUESTION: Why did the CDC decide it was not necessary to err on the side of
caution and test the workers at Brentwood, when the employees on Capitol Hill
were immediately tested? And who is responsible -- do you take personal responsibility
for what seems to be this lapse?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I think I will let the CDC speak to this, but they obviously
proceeded aggressively on the Hill in response to that threat. Again, there
was a little difference; they knew they had a hot spot, they had identified
it. It took a while to learn that they had a problem at Brentwood -- remember,
they worked that line back. But I will let the CDC give you the answer to that
DR. COHEN: As was pointed out, there is risk in prophylaxis when it is not necessary.
One of our basic goals is to identify who is at risk. Previous investigations
in Florida and New York did not identify that the postal workers were at risk.
So this was, again, evolving.
And so now, they are clearly identified as having the component of risk. So
the effort is to identify risk and to intervene by using prophylaxis to prevent
disease, but not to use drugs that may be unnecessary, which could cause further
QUESTION: Governor Ridge, on Friday you mentioned that a mailbox had been found
in the Trenton area. What is the update on that?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I have no further information. It is just an ongoing investigation;
all I can tell you now is it's an ongoing investigation.
QUESTION: Has there been a mailbox that was found, though? Because there was
some question after you made that comment that perhaps it was not found. Was
there one found that might be connected to this?
INSPECTOR WEAVER: No, that's -- I'm Ken Weaver, Chief Postal Inspector. That
is all part of the investigation. We are looking at every possible detail on
that route, including any possible boxes. But all I can tell you at this point,
that is part of the ongoing investigation.
QUESTION: How many boxes have been removed for inspection? Several? A few?
INSPECTOR WEAVER: I don't know. I know there have been a few that we have looked
at. That is just an ongoing part of it.
QUESTION: Have you ruled out any?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you.