SRS Sign, COVID

An entrance to the Savannah River Site, a 310-square-mile nuclear complex south of Aiken.

One new case of COVID-19 has been recorded at the Savannah River Site, bringing the cumulative tally to 14.

The latest case was disclosed around noon Monday – just days after it was announced all 13 site workers who previously tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus had "made a full recovery."

The 14th case also comes as site officials and contractors ease toward a return to normal, albeit with virus protections – physical distancing and temperature checks, as examples – in place.

The Savannah River Site earlier this year assumed an essential mission-critical posture, prioritizing and scaling back the work done there and, as a result, the amount of people physically reporting for work. The pivot coincided with stay-at-home orders issued by Republican Govs. Henry McMaster of South Carolina and Brian Kemp of Georgia. Coronavirus-related restrictions in the Palmetto and Peach states have since significantly loosened.

In an online message updated Monday, SRS officials said "planning continues for a phased approach to bring all facilities back" to regular operation.

Exactly when that will be accomplished is unclear.

That said, the Savannah River Site's infectious disease response team has "developed a site-wide plan for a deliberate resumption of work when appropriate," the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board reported April 17, and contractors have submitted a draft, "Savannah River Site Recovery Plan – Return to Normal Operations from the COVID-19 Pandemic Event," the independent board reported a week later.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and government in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin