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D.C. mayor: Worst of anthrax crisis is over

By Brad Wright
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Although the search for deadly anthrax spores is far from over in the nation's capital, Mayor Anthony Williams said Tuesday he believes the worst of the local crisis is past.

The number of confirmed cases of anthrax in the District of Columbia-Maryland-Virginia region remains at five, he said. There are no new suspected cases, and the number of low suspicion or cases warranting further precautionary investigation has been cut from 47 to 31.

"There are a number of different signs that tell us, I think, the worst of this is over and now what we've got to do is meet a number of challenges," he said.

Among those challenges is better communication by federal and district authorities to postal workers and others at risk.

Dr. Ivan Walks, the city's chief health officer, confirmed that some postal workers from the Friendship Heights Post Office seeking medicine at D.C. General Hospital were turned away due to poor communication. He said those workers will have the medicine brought to them.

There is also some concern for people in businesses who dealt with bulk mail from the Brentwood processing center, which handled most of the district's mail until it was closed due to contamination. Two people who worked there died of inhaled anthrax.

There may be as many as 4,000 such businesses, but the exact number and identities are unknown.

Jerry Lane, capital region district manager for the Postal Service, said that was partly because the records identifying such businesses are in the closed Brentwood center.

Williams said he believes most of those businesses know if they received bulk mail from Brentwood and should have their people tested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting testing on all U.S. postal facilities in the district. Other than Brentwood, three facilities have tested positive: Southwest, Friendship Heights and Dulles.

Thirty-two facilities have tested negative. Five others, the Northwest, Woodridge, Mid City, Kalorama and the Columbia Heights financial center, are awaiting results.

The facilities at Dulles Terminal, Bolling, the Pentagon, Ben Franklin and Tech World have not been tested yet.

Meanwhile, testing of government buildings on Capitol Hill continues as does the cleanup in those areas that have tested positive.

The Hart Senate Office Building remains closed as do the Ford and Longworth buildings on the House side.




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