COVID-19 Plans and Preparation for CARES Employees
*Updated as of March 27, 2020*
**Stand by for further updates as the situation is changing quickly**
***Please follow VA-issued updates if they come out prior to CARES updates***
Thank you for your dedication during this challenging time. In support of the recommendations by the CDC, VA, and other federal agencies, I want to summarize the important temporary, emergency policies CARES is implementing in response.
This guidance is meant to supplement, not replace, official VA guidance. It is also meant to consolidate guidance to those points most relevant to CARES employees. Please follow all VA guidance as it becomes available.
- If you are sick, stay home
- CARES is following the CDC guidelines for sick employees, including:
- Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
- Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day will be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).
- Cough and sneeze etiquette: cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; put your used tissue in a waste basket; if you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
- Hand hygiene: clean your hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol or wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
- If you have been exposed to anyone with known COVID-19 exposure or have recently travelled to a country with a Level 3 Travel Health Notice, you must contact your VA Occupational Health office by phone for direction before returning to work.
- Please ensure you have your supervisor’s approval to then notify Celia Vega, HR Specialist, (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Please share personal contact information with your supervisor and key coworkers at this time, so that we can communicate in case of extended absences or remote work.
- At this time, CARES has not moved to a 100% remote work directive, but if you are uncertain or uncomfortable, please make remote work arrangements with your supervisor and Celia Vega. We will work together to develop business continuity plans and accommodate all reasonable requests from non-essential personnel.
- Perform routine environmental cleaning
- Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
- No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
We know that many of you have already begun to work from home. Please be sure that your supervisor is aware of and supports that decision. We are asking supervisors to be as flexible as possible when considering work from home requests. We must, however, continue to meet the critical needs of the health care system while permitting remote work or altered schedules.
Please check with communications and guidance by the IRB as to requirements for your studies during the emergency period.
It is important to note that all telework approvals will be issued under the COVID-19 emergency and will be issued as temporary authorities. In addition, they will all require that supervisors have mechanisms in place to ensure telework is productive and that the facility has the authority to recall telework schedules at any time to meet the essential needs of the organization. We intend to be flexible but will need to put our hospital’s and our Veterans’ needs first in deploying telework.”
VA issued the following instructions to those prepping for Telework and Remote Access:
In Step 1:
Telework - Are you prepared?
In Step 2:
VA Remote Access Information Website
VA-issued factors relating to telework to consider include:
- Determine if job duties can be completed at home;
- If an employee’s job duties are not required to be performed on site, do not directly provide patient care or support patient care, and can be performed remotely with minimal disruption, this meets the first criteria for establishing work-from-home;
- In assessing whether work can be performed from home, the employee must have remote VA VPN access. To obtain this access, please contact the Research Service Administrative Officer Amanda Smithy email@example.com for Hines and Jeff Townsend firstname.lastname@example.org for Lovell.
- Employees who work from home may be asked to perform duties outside their traditional responsibilities and may be asked to return to your VA facility to manage a situation as needed. Once it is determined that job duties can be performed from home, supervisors are advised to prioritize assigning work-from-home arrangements.
- All work-from-home arrangements require approval from your supervisor.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act – Effective April 1, 2020
Attached is the official notice from the US Dept of Labor. Below are important and helpful links on the notice:
Stay at Home Orders by Government Entities
As many states, including Illinois, continue to enact state-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, please continue to refer to the following memorandum for guidance:
- “Essential VA Employees – 3.20.2020” by the Hines Acting Medical Center Director sent to all VA staff via email on March 20, 2020;
- “Essential Health Care Operations” by Dr. Stone, VHA Executive in Charge, sent to all VA staff via email on March 25, 2020;
- Gov. Pritzker Executive Order 2020-10 [click here].
We will continue to follow VA-issued directives and guidance as to CARES administrative staff being on-site to receive vouchers and orders to process payments. We will do our best to meet your needs during this challenging time.
Thank you for the information you have previously sent related to an assessment of your studies. If anything changes, please keep CARES staff informed.
In closing, this situation is dynamic and evolving daily and we are continuously monitoring to evaluate the changes. Your health and well-being remain our priority. I ask that we all continue to bring our patience, understanding, and the spirit of collaboration and cooperation that this will require.
Please also continue to monitor official communications from VA and visit the CARES website (CARES-Research.Org) for updates.
Strategies for individual health and the health of our community remain: wash your hands regularly; stay home if you feel sick; and respect social distancing.
Thank you for your commitment. Please contact me with any comments or concerns.