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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 families.
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 facility.
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 www.usps.gov, or by accessing CDC's website at 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 these criminals.
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 our system.
Obviously, that won't happen overnight, so we need people to continue to be on guard.
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 environment.
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.
Q 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 anthrax?
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."
Q 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.
Q 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.
Q 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.
Q 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.
Q 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.
Q You're talking about sanitizing not just the surface, but the contents, with irradiation?
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.
Q 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.
Q 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.
Q Have you considered curtailing the mail delivery in Washington because of this?
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.
Q Are you going to test people -- the public who were at the Brentwood facility?
MR. SOMBRATTO: Am I going to tell the public --
Q 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 Post Office.
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.
Q 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.
Q 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.
Q 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.
Q And the second part of the question?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: The Anne Arundel? I know, but I'll let the Postmaster General do that.
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 measure.
Q 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 cutaneous anthrax.
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 leadership.
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 this disease.
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.
Q 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 --
Q 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 to them.
Q 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 been delivered?
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.
Q 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.
Q 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 question.
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 problems.
Q 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.
Q 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.
Q 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.
Q Have you ruled out any?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you.
END 5:23 P.M. EDT
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