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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Anthrax Discovered at Supreme Court Mail Facility

Aired October 26, 2001 - 14:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: At the Supreme Court, they're talking with reporters about the finding of anthrax at a filter inside a mail processing facility that handles Supreme Court mail. Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

KATHY ARBERG, SPOKESWOMAN, SUPREME COURT: Results of testing of our building completed by the Centers for Disease Control on Sunday were all negative. No court personnel have shown any signs of being exposed to, or having developed, any form of anthrax.

We will be closing the building after all employees have received testing and any treatment as determined appropriate by the Capitol attending physician. The building will then be tested thoroughly. And if any contamination is detected, the building will be decontaminated. If the building remains closed on Monday, the Court will sit at the D.C. Circuit Court as scheduled.

Dr. Eisold will brief the court employees -- and just did, in fact -- at 2:00 today and will be available here to answer your questions.

QUESTION: Kathy?

ARBERG: Yes.

QUESTION: Have the justices been swabbed or tested in any way and have they started treatment on the justices?

ARBERG: I'll let Dr. Eisold take your question.

DR. JOHN EISOLD, U.S. CAPITOL PHYSICIAN: I think, as has been my experience last week, I will not discuss any individual patients, that's a doctor-patient issue.

QUESTION: But all nine of them were in the building? In the conference...

EISOLD: Again, that's something for the Court to talk about. I'm here to talk about medical things.

QUESTION: How many people work in the building? And how many do you estimate will be tested?

EISOLD: I do not have an estimate right now. And I don't know how many people work in the building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four-hundred, approximately.

EISOLD: Approximately 400.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea how many of those would have been anywhere near where the -- I mean, anywhere near anything of potential danger?

EISOLD: Right. I think that what we're doing right now is following the same model that we did on the Hill. We are trying to identify a population in the building that perhaps could have had some exposure.

Again, the building has no known contamination at the present time. But following the same thought process we did last week, we are following the letter, so to speak. And if there's evidence of a contaminated filter at the off-site screening -- although it's a conservative approach for us to take -- we're making the assumption that quite possibly something may have come to the mailroom here. And as you already know, there are many mailrooms that have been screened and followed with treatment.

The mailroom here is a little bit more open. It's a place where we can't define, necessarily, just mail handlers because people -- it's a common area where people go through.

So that, within that framework, we're going to identify a cohort that we want to test to be 100 percent sure about their safety and health. We will treat with a short course of antibiotics, much as we did with the people on the Hill and in the community. That antibiotic will be one of two, or perhaps three.

And I want to make it clear that Cipro has been spoken about, but Doxycycline is equally as effective and also Amoxicillin, so that we have other choices based upon what we know about the sensitivity as to what we've been dealing with. And...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Have you started the testing already of the employees?

EISOLD: We have started the testing.

QUESTION: How many have been tested so far, would you say?

EISOLD: When I say we have started, I mean we have just started. So you don't have -- so you know...

QUESTION: What do you know about the anthrax itself? Can you say how much of it was found, what sort it is?

EISOLD: I can't comment on that for a couple of reasons.

One, that is part of a potential criminal investigation so that all the details of that are held closely by the people who are conducting that investigation. And from my perspective, I suspect it will be the FBI, which is who it was on the Hill.

QUESTION: Did you notify the FBI already?

EISOLD: I understand that that has been done.

QUESTION: Kathy, what was the -- excuse me.

EISOLD: Say again?

QUESTION: Kathy...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ... as in the case of the Capitol and does Brentwood serve the Supreme Court?

EISOLD: I think you probably need to ask the postmaster. I'm really -- I'm not trying to be evasive. But I'm focused on the health issues here because I want to put people's minds at rest, just like I did with the employees in there, that if we follow the same rigorous procedures we did before, people will be healthy and safe and, if possible, by environmental sampling and sampling of certain people, we might be able to find some clues and help to build a case where we can define exposure.

QUESTION: Kathy or Pam, could you tell us where the filter was in the remote mail site facility. Was it a filter on the machine, on the ventilation system?

ARBERG: I think Pam can address that -- not entirely because we don't discuss our security measures or the specifics of them but I think you can at least say...

QUESTION: Kathy, could you talk about this mail -- the other question that I'm dealing with -- the path that the mail takes to get to the Supreme Court.

ARBERG: First of all, I will answer the question about the filter.

As I understand it, it was an air filter. And as far as the path the mail takes -- Pam, do you want to talk about that?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: It's an air filter not attached to the ventilation system. And it's -- the area that we use, which is off- site, several miles from here, is an unoccupied facility. We're using it, frankly, just to screen mail.

QUESTION: Where is that exactly?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: It's our own policy. It's our own premises. And so the path of the mail would be that facility and then back to this building.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Has it been in your policy since September 11?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: No, it's been for quite sometime.

QUESTION: Where is this building?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: It's several miles from here.

QUESTION: Can you give us a general sense -- Maryland, Virginia?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: Its in the...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's in the Maryland suburbs.

QUESTION: How many people actually work in the mailroom (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: I would say that probably no more than 12 people at any -- over the course of this past week have handled the mail in that facility.

QUESTION: So there are people that go there to pick up their mail? And how does it work exactly?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: No, the mail is delivered to this building, but the people who screen the mail screen it there.

QUESTION: Was the removal of the air filter part of some kind of routine maintenance, or was it done specially because of the...

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: It was a precaution.

QUESTION: What happens to the mail once it gets to the mailroom?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Does someone bring the mail around to the individual offices for the court people to come down and get it? What's the...

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: There's a variety of methods of delivery. Ultimately, the mail does reach the offices to which the mail is addressed.

QUESTION: Where will the testing be taking place?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: In our building.

QUESTION: When was the last time -- the previous time that that filter was screened or if there's any screen...

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: It's screened every night.

QUESTION: Every night. (OFF-MIKE) ... because of this problem?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: Yes. And we test it other ways as well.

QUESTION: Pam, if you would tell us if the filter was taken from the building on Monday night, as the statement said, why did the alert not occur until day.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: Because we did not get the test results until today.

QUESTION: Is that customary, I mean, for four days delay?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: The tests are conducted by the Navy. You'll have to ask them.

QUESTION: At Bethesda Naval? Is that where they...

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: Yes.

EISOLD: That particular environmental sample, I think, was at Naval Medical Research Center out at I think Forest Glen.

The question you have -- it's just like the other tests. Everybody wants a test immediately, and it doesn't happen that way. They need to grow colonies and particularly, if it takes a long time because there's a small amount, it may take longer. So generally these results takes 48 to 72 hours before you can make some definitive determination.

And if you just look at the time frame -- if you plate that on Tuesday, you've got Wednesday, Thursday and you get it today.

QUESTION: Was this a small amount?

EISOLD: Again...

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Some detail, but no new development, as such, on this anthrax that was found in an off-site, or off-campus, mail handling facility that serves the Supreme Court. About a dozen people work there.

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