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John Rowland Holds Press Conference

Aired November 23, 2001 - 13:20   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: We want to take you directly now to Hartford, Connecticut, where Governor John Rowland is talking about the investigation into anthrax after the death of a 94-year-old woman.

We'll listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. JOHN ROWLAND (R), CONNECTICUT: Samples were taken from the house, the garbage, the mailbox, and all samples have tested negative for anthrax. At the Seymour post office, 29 environmental samples were taken on November 21; 28 tested negative for anthrax. One sample still is requiring some additional testing, and final confirmation should be taking place tomorrow.

At Wallingford, 63 samples were taken back on November 11, which was the work that was done -- the overseeing work that was done on November 11. As we reported some time ago, all those samples were negative. An additional 20 -- I'm sorry, an additional 64 samples were taken on November 21. The samples, preliminary, looked negative, but they require another 24 hours of culture before final determination can take place.

The Department of Public Health continues to work with the postal service to reach out to additional employees at the postal facilities for them to take antibiotics. I want to report to you that probably about 3/4 of the postal employee have taken antibiotics. Some are waiting for these results; others have decided not to take antibiotics.

I'd also point out that these postal employees that I've talked to, both in Wallingford and in Seymour, have been cooperative, have been upbeat, have been focused, I might even say resilient. No one has missed work. Everyone showed up for the various shifts. And they are out there doing their job. And we're quite proud of them, and thankful that they have been so resilient, in light of this information, and in light of the death that has taken place.

So we're going to continue to contact probably about another 200 employees that have either off-shifts, or on a different, staggered time-frame. So, again, all samples have tested negative so far. Additional testing will take place. And we'll give you those results as soon as we get them. In the meantime, I would continue to advise people throughout the state of Connecticut, especially in the Oxford area, to go on living their lives, to go on with their routines.

The CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, the FBI, our own state police and, indeed, our public health officials will continue to follow the path of the victim, to go back over the last three-to-four weeks, and to continue their investigation. John Steel (ph) is here, and he has been working with the postal facilities. And I think that's good information, and good news for the postal facilities to know, that the test have been negative in those two facilities.

But we'll continue to take added precautions, at least for peace of mind. So I thank you for being here, and I'd be glad to take any questions that you might have.

QUESTION: Do you think, governor, that now that they've gone through (OFF-MIKE) mail in this situation can't be ruled out?

ROWLAND: Well, I certainly wouldn't rule out anything. The work that's been done so far, i.e. the mailbox and some items and garbage and so forth at the victim's home have been tested. You probably can rule out the mail coming from either Seymour or Wallingford because those test have proved negative. But again, this is not -- it's not a perfect science. And perhaps there's other venues that need to be investigated.

So all we can do in this particular instance is to test the environmental samples at all the facilities, test the machines; about 400 people have been tested for anthrax, those have all come up negative. So it's still a bit of a mystery, again, as I said, in the last two days I would liken it to New York -- the 61-year-old woman that was infected with anthrax in New York. This is a very similar circumstance. And the CDC and the FBI will continue to do tests and continue to investigate the case.

QUESTION: Governor, how long will the testing take place for? You said "additional testing" -- how long will this go on before the state, federal (OFF-MIKE) decide, you know, enough is enough, we can't find it?

ROWLAND: Well, you'd have to ask them in particular, but I know that the federal resources -- CDC and the FBI and our own public health officials will continue until we've exhausted every avenue and every possibility.

So I think it's certainly going to be days from now before they will come to any finality. And I know they're continuing to look at other possibilities. And frankly it's -- you know, it's just like the New York case; they continue to look at locations that the victim has been to, and try to get some answers.

Brian (ph)?

QUESTION: Are they getting frustrated?

ROWLAND: Well, I think -- yes, I can't speak for the fellow authorities, but it's frustrating for all of us. I mean, the good news is that we haven't found any environmental samples of anthrax at Wallingford or Seymour. That's good news. You know, John Steel said it well earlier: It's good news that we've not found any problems in the two mail facilities. That's good news for the employees and other personnel. The bad news is: From an investigative standpoint, we still are frustrated at not finding out the source of the anthrax.

QUESTION: Governor, can you (OFF-MIKE) 29 samples taken in Seymour, 28 negative, one (OFF-MIKE) testing. Can you say where that was from and why that needs more testing? (OFF-MIKE)

ROWLAND: I don't think so, because the other 28 have come up negative. They're just finishing up some tests. They have to grow cultures. And so in that particular case we'll know tomorrow.

But, again, 28 out of 29 are final. And so we just need the final confirmation on that last test.

QUESTION: There wasn't anything that was ambiguous? (OFF-MIKE) just that you haven't gotten the test back on that one?

ROWLAND: That's correct.

QUESTION: Governor, anything specific now that they need to be looking at? I guess, particularly in the (OFF-MIKE) anything specific that (OFF-MIKE)

ROWLAND: Yes, I would defer that to the FBI and the CDC. They have some other areas that I'm sure they want to go into. Again, these are initial tests that were done based on the obvious circumstances. The mail, the mailbox and some of the items -- the garbage and so forth. But they'll do a second pass and go even further, and CDC will probably come up and do some further tests, I might add, at the home.

QUESTION: Governor, (OFF-MIKE) testing in Wallingford and Seymour when these tests are complete?

ROWLAND: Yes, I think that would be conclusive for Wallingford and for Seymour. Unless CDC can come up with some other ideas or suggestions. But clearly the sampling that has been done has been exhaustive. And so I don't foresee any further tests taking place at any of those two facilities. But, as you know, in an investigation like this, there might be a new lead or a new thought or a new idea. Anthrax is new to all of us over the last five or six weeks. And -- but at this point it seems to be conclusive in those two facilities.

WOODRUFF: The governor of Connecticut, John Rowland talking to reporters there in Hartford. This is a live news conference. Basically, the good news, as he said -- he just repeated it a moment ago -- is that they have not found samples -- in all the testing they've done, and the sampling they've done, they have not found anthrax in the home of 94-year-old Ottilie Lundgren, who died two days ago of inhalation anthrax, nor at two post offices in the area. The frustrating part, though, is they still don't know the source of the anthrax.

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