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Head of Electric Boat announces he has tested positive for COVID-19

Kevin Graney, the president of Electric Boat, has tested positive for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus disease, he announced to employees Saturday.

Graney said he learned Friday night that he tested positive for the disease. His last day in the office in Groton was Wednesday.

"While we have been talking about symptoms like fever, chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and body aches, my own experience with symptoms was pretty subtle," he said. "Overnight on Wednesday into Thursday this week, I developed what felt like a low grade fever. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve been tempted to take a few Tylenol and report to work. Instead, I heeded what (the medical staff at EB) have been telling us and I stayed home."

"I’ve been monitoring my temperature over the last few days and I’ve not seen a reading over 100 degrees," he said. "My symptoms remain mild — some nasal congestion and a low grade fever."

He said he would not return to work until medically cleared to do so.

"Each of us knows when we’re not quite feeling right. In my case, the indicators were subtle, but enough to cause me to pay attention," he said. "Stay vigilant about your health and the health of those around you. Practice social distancing, wash your hands often, stay hydrated and get rest when you can. Most importantly, stay home if you are sick."

Graney declined through company spokeswoman Liz Power to comment Saturday on how and when he'd been tested. Asked whether EB had access to tests, Power said the company has been referring employees to their health care providers to get tested.

Graney announced to employees Friday that the company had six confirmed cases of the disease. He emphasized the need “to make every effort to improve social distancing,” such as holding virtual meetings, allowing employees to work flexible hours to minimize the number of people in workspaces, and allowing people to work from home.

He said he has “personally doubled down in this regard,” and that any meetings he chairs are happening virtually.

“By adhering to social distancing and practicing good self-protection, we can help to keep everyone who works at or supports Electric Boat safe and healthy, while we meet our obligation to continue our work as an essential part of our nation’s defense,” he said.

The submarine builder, like defense contractors across the country, has been deemed an essential business by both the federal and state governments, given its work in support of national security. The company has about 17,000 employees, the majority of whom work in Connecticut.

Dozens of employees at EB have reached out to The Day in recent weeks to criticize what they see as slow action by the company in response to the virus, including poor communication at the outset, not doing enough to separate people who work in tight quarters, a sluggish rollout of work-from-home policies and difficulty getting approval from supervisors to work remotely.

Many of the employees said they have not noticed an increase in cleaning practices, despite the company saying it was doing so at “high touch points” such as door knobs and work surfaces. A lot of the employees also said they felt the company is placing business before the health and safety of its employees.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney's staff has been working with Navy acquisition leaders to adopt new, flexible rules on schedule and cost in its contracting process so that shipyards will not be penalized for adhering to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said.

“Kevin is a talented engineer and shipbuilder, a good leader at the shipyard, and most importantly a really good person — we’re all rooting for him to get healthy as soon as possible, and it’s good to know that right now his symptoms are mild," Courtney, D-2nd District, said in a statement.  

“The top priority has to remain maintaining the health and safety of the thousands of hard-working men and women down at the shipyard who are working to meet real, tangible national security priorities in real time. Having been in constant contact with EB over these last challenging few weeks, I know that they are continually looking at additional ways to reduce risk for the people who work there," Courtney said.  

In March, Graney rode on the future submarine Vermont as it underwent its initial sea trials, known as alpha trials, the first major test of a submarine’s capabilities at sea, including submerging for the first time and high-speed maneuvers while on the surface and underwater. The trials also test all components and systems on a submarine. The chief of naval operations was also on board the submarine for the alpha trials. The submarine returned to Groton on March 18. People are being screened before getting on the boat.

"In line with our protocol and public heath guidance, employees who were near me and had close contact have been notified, and are monitoring their own health," Graney said Saturday. "My office and surrounding areas are being cleaned this weekend."

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