A director of a Veteran Affairs hospital, Keith Allen, has come under fire for ignoring the social distancing and safety directives after holding a “coronavirus dance party” at an Oregon facility.
In the three-minute video, Allen can be seen holding a boom-box over his shoulder, leading a procession of 16 staffers down a hallway. They make their way into a small office and then begin dancing side-by-side to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”
No one in the group was wearing a face mask or gloves.
Three minutes into the video, an employee is heard shouting, “There are too many people in the room,” and the group finally disbands.
The clip, titled “director’s update,” was initially shared to the VA regional intranet, and received major criticism from a number of VA employees.
The Roseburg facility has confirmed at least five COVID-19 cases, including a staff member who was put on a ventilator in a Portland hospital. Additionally, the facility looks after a number of vulnerable and elderly veterans, a majority of whom have pre-existing health conditions.
At least 2,000 VA employees have tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the country, with 20 succumbing to the virus. Of the 20, 14 worked in non-clinical roles.
One VA staffer responded to the video, telling Oregon Live: “It’s just disgusting in my opinion. If it weren’t for the COVID-19 virus we would probably be laughing at this. But this is not okay. We have one of our own in the hospital fighting for his life.”
US Representative Peter DeFazio stated that the video was “totally inappropriate,” especially considering the vulnerable patients the facility cares for.
The hospital, despite the outrage, maintained that the staffers took part “voluntarily,” and that the hospital was not mandated “to follow state protocols.”
The hospital’s spokesperson, Tim Parish, told the Oregonian that the hospital has implemented a number of safeguards to protect staff, all in accordance with the CDC’s guidelines.
He stated that the measures included “comprehensive COVID-19 screening process for staff, visitors, patients, and contractors.”
He said: “This video was made in an administrative, non-clinical area where PPE (personal protective equipment) is not required. All staff who participated were volunteers and had been properly screened, per CDC and VA guidelines. VA realizes the importance of social distancing during this national emergency and will reiterate that to all employees involved.”
Allen’s private email to community leaders was leaked to The News-Review in Roseburg.
It read: “I would like to begin with an apology if this video offended anyone, it was not a dance party. It was meant to bring a small amount of stress relief and happiness to the Staff at the Roseburg VA Pathology and Laboratory Department. At no time have I forgotten any of the staff or Veterans that have become infected by this virus. I hold each and every one of them in my thoughts and prayers.”