Officials with the John J. Pershing Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Poplar Bluff said an unknown substance prompted the decision to close the West Plains VA Clinic early Wednesday afternoon.

At about 1 p.m. Wednesday, officials were notified that an employee at the West Plains clinic received and opened an envelope containing an unknown white powdery substance, they reported. 

Clinic administration followed the existing emergency plan, contacted local fire and police authorities, and closed the clinic to have it professionally cleaned. 

Drew A. DeWitt, medical center director, initially indicated the facility is expected to resume normal operations on Thursday, and apologized for any inconvenience veterans experienced with the clinic’s early closure. However, Wednesday evening, officials announced that the clinic would not reopen Thursday and it it is uncertain whether it will be open Friday.

"Our West Plains clinic will not be open tomorrow after all, due to additional time needed for analysis and cleaning," said VA spokeswoman Angela Smith. "We apologize to our veterans for any inconvenience, but are adhering to the strictest safety standards."

She added officials will provide updates regarding whether the clinic will open on Friday, and in the meantime, veterans who have questions about their health care may reach the VA call center at 573-686-4151 during normal business hours.

Local authorities are completing a full investigation. More information will be published as it becomes known.

UPDATED at 9:24 a.m. Nov. 19.

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