More post offices and government buildings reopened throughout the Washington region yesterday, and the condition of two Brentwood postal workers and a State Department mail handler with inhalation anthrax continued to improve.
Dr. Ivan C.A. Walks, the District’s top health official, said the anthrax threat seems to be subsiding in the nation’s capital, but he cautioned that testing for contamination continues in buildings across the country.
“In terms of the aftermath of the Daschle letter, I think we’re seeing the downside of that incident,” he said. “We still don’t know who put the anthrax in the mail.”
The two D.C. postal workers and a State Department employee hospitalized with inhalation anthrax between Oct. 21 and Oct. 25 “all continue to do well and are expected to recover,” Dr. Walks said.
An anthrax-laced letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, was processed Oct. 9 at the Brentwood postal facility the city’s central mail-processing facility.
Brentwood closed Oct. 21 when two workers there died of inhalation anthrax. Postal officials yesterday said they have not yet determined when Brentwood will reopen.
The building is considered a crime scene, and tests to determine the extent of contamination are still under way.
Dr. Walks said the city’s anthrax response efforts are being scaled back.
About a dozen other Brentwood postal workers who were hospitalized with anthrax-like symptoms have been released from area hospitals after tests showed none had anthrax.
“It’s clear that our treatment protocols are working,” Dr. Walks said. “No one who is receiving treatment has fallen ill.”
At the Pentagon, officials said there was no indication that anthrax spores found in two postal boxes there had migrated to other parts of the military complex.
Spokesman Richard L. McGraw said yesterday that 150 tests conducted by the Defense Protective Service throughout the Pentagon came up negative for anthrax.
The Ford House Office Building, where anthrax was discovered in a mailroom, reopened yesterday, and the Longworth House Office building reopened Monday.
Three offices in Longworth remain sealed those of Rep. John Baldacci, Maine Democrat; Rep. Rush D. Holt, New Jersey Democrat, and Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican. Their offices tested positive for traces of anthrax, and they are still closed as officials work to eradicate the bacteria.
Officials yesterday abandoned a plan to pump chlorine dioxide gas into the entire Hart Senate Office Building amid worries it might damage computers and artwork but would not kill all the anthrax.
They now have decided to use the bacteria-killing gas only in the anthrax-tainted offices of Mr. Daschle and Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, and in the building’s ventilation system. Those areas will be sealed off during the process.
All 48 other senators’ offices in the building are being tested, and spots where trace amounts of anthrax were found already are being cleaned with a foam. The Hart building could reopen as early as Nov. 21, Environmental Protection Agency officials told senators.
There were more reports of anthrax spores around the world yesterday.
A diplomatic mailbag sent from Washington to the U.S. consulate in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg tested positive for what was described as a negligible amount of anthrax spores, consular officials said yesterday.
The consulate’s mail was tested after a State Department’s mail worker in Sterling was diagnosed with anthrax.
Postal Chief Financial Officer Richard Strasser said the costs of adding security, dealing with the terrorists and lost business will total “billions of dollars.”
Top federal anti-terrorism experts gave a grim assessment yesterday of how little they know about the source of the anthrax letters, how massive the pool of potential suspects may be and the thousands of hoaxes that are making their job even tougher.
James Caruso, a senior FBI counterterrorism official, told a Senate panel that authorities “do not believe [the anthrax samples] were stolen or misplaced from a registered laboratory.”
But Mr. Caruso said the FBI did not yet know where the spores originated or who was responsible. Many, many people had passed through U.S. labs and research facilities over the years where they could have learned about or had access to anthrax, he said.
Dave Boyer contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.