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COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

GENERAL


Can an employer use touch-less thermometers as part of a workplace screening protocol?
According to Oregon Health Authority: In circumstances where on-site temperature measurement is being implemented, temporal scanners (touch forehead), and no-touch methods might be used in order to reduce contact between screeners and potentially ill individuals. However, compared to oral or rectal measurement, no-touch thermometers have low sensitivity for temperatures greater than 38C. This means some people with fever will go undetected by temporal or no-touch methods.

 

Anyone who performs temperature screening should use appropriate personal protective equipment as described elsewhere (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/correction-detention/guidance-correctional-detention.html​). Non-disposable thermometers should be appropriately sanitized between use and the person performing screening should adhere to infection control practices.


Can we use PPE and allow our employees to come to work?
Oregon OSHA expects workplaces to comply with the governor’s Executive Order No. 20-12 to maintain social distancing. Using respirators cannot be the default solution or the primary action for complying with Gov. Brown’s social distancing order.
Production and work practice modifications should be made to maintain required social distancing. If these modifications are unable to achieve the social distancing requirements and employees must work in close contact in order to complete business-critical tasks, then PPE (such as successfully fitted respirators) can be used to supplement, not replace, these production and work practice modifications in order to comply with the social distancing requirements. Keeping in line with the hierarchy of controls, PPE should be utilized as a last resort.
Please keep in mind, there is a severe shortage of PPE in Oregon. It is imperative that healthcare facilities have an adequate supply of PPE to protect our healthcare providers on the front line of this emergency. Governor Brown issued Executive Order No. 20-10 to conserve PPE. EO No. 20-10, strongly encourages all industries (except healthcare) to cancel or postpone non-essential uses of PPE during the ongoing state of emergency, so that equipment can be conserved and redirected to the State’s COVID-19 response via the Office of Emergency Management. All of those wishing to donate surplus PPE, should contact the PPE Coordinator listed in EO No. 20-10 at (971)-900-9952.


Where can I find information from reputable sources about the coronavirus outbreak?
You are encouraged to follow guidelines issued by the Oregon Health AuthorityCenters 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.
 


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.
 

FEMA Funding of Verbal Contracts/Agreements: FEMA has received questions about verbal agreements where eligible Public Assistance (PA) applicants, the special district, may have made verbal agreements with other entities to provide services (food, shelter, etc.). If a district enters into agreements with private organizations or private non-profits (PNP) verbally they should formalize the agreements in writing as soon as possible in order to receive reimbursement through FEMA PA. If the district wants to acquire goods and services through a PNP, this would be considered a contract pursuant to 2 C.F.R. § 200.330(c). In sum, as a contract, the district may be able to sole-source, depending on its rules, and it must be mindful of the requirement to include all required contract provisions such as those listed below.  Contact Julie Slevin (redacted) and Daniel Gwin (redacted) with questions to ensure compliance.

  • Remedies
  • Termination for Cause and Convenience
  • EEO  requirement doesn’t apply
  • Davis Bacon requirement doesn’t apply
  • Contract work hours provision
  • Rights to inventions doesn’t apply
  • The clean air and federal water pollution act
  • Debarment and suspension
  • Byrd Anti-Lobbying Amendment
  • Procurement of recovered materials

FEMA - Blog posts, websites, flyers and rumor control: FEMA has had a few questions, including one from SDAO Risk Management Consultant Jason Jantzi, regarding some material (blog posts, websites, emails, flyers) generated by lobbyists and consultants that produce material on PA, the CARES Act, and more.  Jurisdictions should be very cautious about what sources of information they trust. We are not able to advise on funding that may be available under authorities or programs of other agencies. Both Treasury and HHS have comprehensive COVID-19 relief websites:
Treasury
Treasury FAQ

HHS
 

I know I have COVID-19, but I am not sick enough to be in a hospital. Should I wear a homemade mask?

Isolating yourself in a separate room as much as possible is likely to be most effective. Also, consider opening windows or using filtered HVAC systems to bring in fresh air. Remind your family members to wash their hands after every time they are near you. We recommend that anyone who knows or suspects they have COVID-19 use a homemade mask when they are around other people to limit the spread of the virus, if they do not have access to a surgical mask. This may reduce the risk of infection to family members and others close by.
 

I don’t think I have COVID-19, should I wear a homemade mask?

Some people who have COVID-19 do not have any symptoms and can spread the virus unknowingly. The best ways to prevent infection is to limit your exposure to other people through social/physical isolation, and practicing hand hygiene. Wearing a homemade mask may reduce the spread of virus to others via large droplets. However, it is unlikely that wearing a homemade mask will prevent you from becoming infected.
 

Is there a best homemade mask pattern?

There are many mask patterns on the internet and little is known about whether any specific type is better at removing particles than others. However, some materials are better at removing particles than others.9 Your mask should fit as snugly as possible around your face to limit airflow around the mask.
 

I have decided to wear a homemade mask, what are some best practices?

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water before you put on the mask.
  2. If your mask has ties, secure the bottom ties first with a bow around the nape of your neck. Then pull the mask by the upper ties over your mouth and chin and secure around your head.
  3. Wash your hands every time you touch your mask during the day! (Yes, every time.)
  4. Wash your mask every time you remove it and wash your hands with soap and water after removing the mask. Put the mask somewhere isolated until it can be washed.
  5. Assume that there could be virus on both sides of the mask any time you touch it.
  6. Wear a clean mask each time you need to put one on.

https://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-education-and-research-center-for-occupational-safety-and-health/can-a-mask-protect-me-putting-homemade-masks-in-the-hierarchy-of-controls

 

 


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.
 

Please refer to the OSPHL Lab Test Menu and the CDC Interim Guidance for Collecting, Handling, and Testing Clinical Specimens from PUIs for complete specimen collection guidance. 


Will there be a charge to use the Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System?
There is no charge to use the Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System.  The system can be used by all healthcare personnel ("HCP") which refers to all paid and unpaid persons serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials, including bodily substances (e.g., blood, tissue, and specific body fluids); contaminated medical supplies, devices, and equipment; contaminated environmental surfaces; or contaminated air.


How can my organization access the Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System?
Please visit www.battelle.org/decon and click on the enroll button and complete the necessary information.


SANITARY DISTRICTS
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.