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COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

GENERAL

Where can I find information from reputable sources about the coronavirus outbreak?

You are encouraged to follow guidelines issued by the Oregon Health Authority, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and World Health Organization. Be sure to check these resources regularly as information is rapidly changing. 

How can I keep my workplace healthy?
Encourage employees with symptoms of acute respiratory illness to stay home. Employees should not come to work if they have a fever (100.4 degrees F or greater using an oral thermometer) or other symptoms like cough, vomiting or diarrhea. They should be without fever for 24 hours and off of fever reducing medications like aspirin or acetaminophen before returning to work.

If any employees develop a fever or acute respiratory illness symptoms upon arrival to work or during the workday, they should go home immediately.

Emphasize that all employees should stay home when sick, and make sure that workplace policies allow sick leave. Encourage employees to wash their hands frequently and cover their coughs and sneezes. Perform regular cleaning of your workplace and make it a routine to clean all surfaces that people often touch. Examples are doorknobs, light switches, phones, copiers, sink faucets, handrails, etc. If you touch it, you should clean it. Use cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. 

 

One of my employees has been exposed or is sick. What should I do?
If an employee develops COVID-19, you should work with public health to determine which co-workers had close, prolonged contact with the ill employee that might put them at risk of exposure to COVID-19. Be sure to also maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Employees who have had exposure to a co-worker with a confirmed case of COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment and contact their local public health department for more information.

Should we consider closing our facilities? 
This is a question to ask your county public health officials. All areas of the state will be affected differently and at various times. If you don’t know how to contact your local public health officials, click here.

Do you have information about sick time?
Yes. Please refer to the FAQ that BOLI has put together for employers and employees.

How should we handle our scheduled board meetings?
We recognize the current health concerns with regard to social gatherings, which include public board meetings.  With that in mind we are providing the following guidelines to help district boards facilitate the ongoing business of the district while limiting unnecessary health risks or exposure to the Coronavirus (COVID-19):

*Postponement.  Our general guidance is always to adhere to the statutory requirements governing public meeting requirements.  However, it is paramount that a board make decisions in the best interest of the district.  Given the public health guidelines regarding social distancing and limiting unnecessary social contact, this may mean that the appropriate action is to postpone your regular board meeting.  Please note that this is a board decision, and it is the board’s responsibility to act in its district’s best interest.  If it is determined by the board that postponement is appropriate, you must give proper notice of the postponement to the public and media, same as your regular notice requirements.

*Telephonic Appearance/Remote Meetings.  It has always been permissible for board members to attend a public board meeting by telephone (or via Skype, FaceTime, etc.).  The only requirement is that the board member(s) can hear and be heard.  It is also allowable under ORS 192.670 to hold a remote meeting by telephone or electronic communication (there are platforms out there such as Go To Meeting or Zoom Meeting designed to facilitate this).  For this method, along with publishing instructions for listening in to the meeting, the statute requires that the district still have a physical location where members of the public can show up and listen to the communication at the posted time.

Read more...

Do you have guidance from HR Answers about this situation?
Yes. Our friends at HR Answers have provided some valuable information on how to manage your employees during this unpredictable time. Read more...

Can our district temporarily suspend our policy regarding the disconnection of utilities during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?

This is a challenging issue. SDAO strongly encourages you to consult with your district’s general counsel for options on this topic. If your board makes the decision to temporarily suspend or alter their shutoff/disconnection policy, the preferred course of action would be that the board, in an open and public meeting, direct staff to adopt a policy on this issue. The board would likely provide guidance to staff regarding the parameters of the policy. 

 

Assuming the district implements a policy on this topic, it is critical that whatever policy is enacted is enforced consistently for all patrons. The only exception to suspension of the disconnect policy would be for legitimate, documented safety or health reasons.



WORKERS' COMPENSATION

If my employee contracts coronavirus (COVID-19), can they file a workers' compensation claim?

A diagnosis of COVID-19 is not necessarily work related nor does it necessarily need to be filed as a workers' compensation claim. An employee should only file a claim when they are seeking treatment or medical advice for a condition they believe resulted from an exposure on the job.

According to our state's workers' compensation law, the burden of proof is on the employee to show that, more likely than not, the employee contracted the coronavirus while working or traveling for work. As it becomes more widespread in the community, this may be difficult to prove and would likely require an expert medical opinion.

If we shut down operations at our district due to COVID-19 concerns, can employees file claims for time loss?
If your district shuts down or suggests that employees be tested for the virus, that does not necessarily mean that claims should be filed or that interim time loss or diagnostic testing will be paid. If a medical provider recommends testing or quarantine for a specific individual and links that recommendation to a confirmed or suspected work exposure, then a claim should be filed.

If we suspect an employee has COVID-19 from a work-related exposure, can diagnostic testing be paid through workers' compensation?
Diagnostic testing may be compensable if there is confirmed or suspected work exposure to COVID-19, and a doctor recommends diagnostic testing to determine whether the employee carries or has developed the virus.

If an employee is quarantined, will time loss be paid through our workers' compensation coverage?

If SDIS accepts a claim for COVID-19, or for diagnostic testing for the virus, and the worker is quarantined by their health care provider or the CDC, time loss may be owed to the worker. If an employee with an accepted claim for exposure is otherwise healthy and has an agreement with the employer to work remotely and is earning full wages, 
SDIS will evaluate the claim for any temporary partial disability benefits that may be due.”

If employees work from home, will we need to change our workers' compensation coverage?
Workers' compensation coverage for your telecommuting employees depends on their class codes and duties. If the employee is typically a clerical employee at your district, they would have the same class code when performing clerical duties at a home office. If the employee is not normally a clerical employee, but are working temporarily in that capacity, you would be able to apply some wages to a clerical class code if the employee maintains verifiable time records. If they are performing work other than clerical duties, it would be unlikely that a different class code would apply. Please contact SDAO or your agent with questions about specific situations.

**If you are a fire or ambulance district, there are other unique situations regarding isolation and return-to-work that are we currently working on with the State of Oregon Workers' Compensation Division and will have more information in the near future.**



FIRE/EMS/911/HEALTH DISTRICTS

We are a fire, EMS, 911, or health district and have a lot of questions. Where can we go for information?

At this time, we are recommending that our public safety and health districts follow the CDC and Oregon Health Authority guidance. SDAO will be continuously updating our main COVID-19 web page, and we encourage you to visit that regularly.

Does the state have a point of contact for fire and EMS chief officers and liaisons?
The state has implemented an IMT and for fire and EMS, the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal is leading the effort. The point of contact for chief officers and liaisons is your county Fire Defense Board Chief.

What is the guidance for health districts?

Due to the fluidity of the situation we are encouraging you to follow the guidance provided by your local EM and Oregon Health Authority (OHA). Here are some helpful links:

*OHA Provisional Guidance: EMS Healthcare
*CDC Clinical Care Guidance
*CDC Inpatient Obstetric Guidance

How can health districts submit specimens for testing?
Specimens approved for testing should be shipped refrigerated (2-8°C) to the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory (OSPHL) following appropriate shipping regulations. The following completed form must accompany all specimens: Virology/Immunology Test Request Form (one form per specimen). In the “OTHER/MOLECULAR” section, mark the checkbox indicating “Other” and type or write in “2019-nCoV” or “COVID-19” on the line provided.




SANITARY DISTRICT
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Can the COVID-19 virus spread through sewage systems? (Source: CDC)

CDC is reviewing all data on COVID-19 transmission as information becomes available. At this time, the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 through sewerage systems is thought to be low. Although transmission of COVID-19 through sewage may be possible, there is no evidence to date that this has occurred. This guidance will be updated as necessary as new evidence is assessed.

SARS, a similar coronavirus, has been detected in untreated sewage for up to 2 to 14 days. In the 2003 SARS outbreak, there was documented transmission associated with sewage aerosols. Data suggest that standard municipal wastewater system chlorination practices may be sufficient to inactivate coronaviruses, as long as utilities monitor free available chlorine during treatment to ensure it has not been depleted.

Wastewater and sewage workers should use standard practices, practice basic hygiene precautions, and wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as prescribed for current work tasks.

Should wastewater workers take extra precautions to protect themselves from the COVID-19 virus? (Source: CDC)

Wastewater treatment plant operations should ensure workers follow routine practices to prevent exposure to wastewater. These include using engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE normally required for work tasks when handling untreated wastewater. No additional COVID-19–specific protections are recommended for employees involved in wastewater management operations, including those at wastewater treatment facilities.

More information is available from the CDC website.