Source: The Oak Ridger | Carolyn Krause | September 8, 2020

Special to The Oak Ridger
An Oak Ridge National Laboratory worker demonstrates that cleaning lab surfaces with a disinfectant can be speeded up by using a paint sprayer powered by air from an air bottle mounted on the worker’s back.When the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown went into effect nationwide in mid-March, some U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories shut down.

But not Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Its leaders quickly made hard decisions and took proactive measures that enabled ORNL to remain open with limited staff on-site and to carry out its essential missions safely.

Two of its leaders — Bart Iddins, the ORNL medical director, and John Powell, head of the Environment, Safety, Health and Quality Directorate at ORNL — told the story of ORNL’s success in staying open to participants in the most recent Friends of ORNL meeting held via Zoom videoconferencing.

“No other DOE national lab is testing for the novel coronavirus as aggressively as ORNL,” said Powell. So far, the lab has conducted more than 7,500 tests of employees since the lockdown began. Fewer than 1% of ORNL employees have tested positive for the virus; in contrast, 10% of the people tested in the local area are testing positive.