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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidance on the use of face coverings by members of the general public. The CDC made this recommendation based on new evidence that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people who are interacting in close proximity (specifically within 6 feet)—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are feeling well.
In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. Wearing cloth face coverings is a voluntary public health measure.
It is critical to emphasize that maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distance remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. The use of face coverings does not replace the requirement for physical distancing and other prevention measures, such as washing hands and staying home when sick.
What is the Purpose of a Face Covering?
A cloth face covering guards against unknowingly spreading coronavirus by the person who is wearing the face covering. The cloth is intended to catch droplets from your nose and mouth that may be projected when you talk, sneeze, cough and breathe. By limiting the potential of these droplets from landing on others and on surfaces, you can reduce the spread of the coronavirus and other germs even when you are asymptomatic.
NOTE: It is important to understand that cloth face coverings do not prevent you from becoming infected with coronavirus. The best ways to protect yourself are practicing physical distancing, washing your hands, staying home except for trips to work and other essential trips, and the other prevention measures prescribed by the CDC.
If you choose to wear a face covering, it is also important to understand that the face covering can become contaminated with germs, including coronavirus. As a result, it is important that you wash your hands before putting on and after removing the face covering so you don’t expose yourself to the virus. Additionally, when taking off the mask, do not place it on surfaces that you, your coworkers, or family members will touch. Wash the face covering frequently in regular laundry.
Should I Wear a Face Covering at Work?
It is not necessary to wear a cloth face covering at work; however, you may choose to do so. The purpose of a face covering is to protect others from getting infected by you, not to protect you from others. Loudoun County has implemented physical distancing measures, such as telework, changing in-person meetings to teleconferences, limiting the number of people who should ride an elevator together, changing service delivery models to minimize or eliminate contact with customers, closing facilities where physical distancing is not possible, and maintaining at least 6 feet between yourself and your colleagues while at work. The protocols are in place to limit the potential for the spread of germs in the workplace. According to the CDC, this is still the most effective action to slow the spread of the virus.
Will the County Provide Face Coverings to Employees?
No. In accordance with the current CDC guidance, it is not necessary to wear face coverings in places where physical distancing measures are in place. The County has carefully implemented protocols that limit contact between employees and with members of the public. The CDC’s recommendation is to wear face coverings in public locations where physical distancing is not practical, such as at grocery stores; however, if you choose to wear a cloth face covering while at work, you may do so.
It is important to note that for any employee whose job limits their ability to maintain at least 6 feet between themselves and others, such as employees in Fire and Rescue, the Sheriff’s Office, Health Department and other human services agencies, personal protection equipment (PPE) will be provided by the County. This gear is intended to protect these employees from exposure to many types of infections due to the hazards of their job duties. PPE is not provided to employees in office settings where maintaining physical distancing is possible or to employees who telework.
Can I Wear a Face Covering At Work if I Want To?
Yes. Any employee who chooses to wear a face covering at work may do so as long at the face covering does not prevent the employee from performing his or her job duties in an effective or safe manner. You may bring a face covering from home. The CDC has offered guidance on how to make a face covering.
Remember, face coverings are not PPE; they are intended to protect others from the person who is wearing the face covering. They do not prevent you from becoming infected with coronavirus, so even if you are wearing a face covering, you are still required to maintain appropriate physical distancing in the workplace. In addition, remember to wash your hands and take the other prevention measures recommended by the CDC.
What is the Difference Between a Face Covering, Mask and N95 Respirator?
The CDC’s recent recommendation is for people to wear cloth face coverings in public places where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores. These types of face coverings can be made at home from cloth. The CDC recommends using tightly-woven cotton.
The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders whose job duties require such equipment, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
N-95 respirators and surgical masks are widely used in healthcare settings. Both types of personal protective equipment (PPE) can be used for infection control. A respirator is designed to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne contaminants such as dusts, fumes, vapors, and infectious agents associated with inhaling small and large particle droplets.
In comparison, a surgical mask only provides barrier protection against large-particle droplets and does not effectively filter inhaled small particles, fumes, or vapors. A surgical mask is primarily used to protect patients and healthcare workers from people who may have a respiratory infection or to protect sterilized or disinfected medical devices and supplies.
The table at the link below was developed in consultation with the Loudoun County Health Department. The table provides potential scenarios an employee can use to evaluate what steps they should take if they come in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 or who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19. For questions related to the use of paid leave, please refer to question #3 below.
The Federal Government recently enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) in response to the national COVID-19 outbreak, with an effective date of April 1, 2020. The FFCRA includes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA).
The EPSLA requires certain employers to provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave, with a maximum of 80 hours for full-time employees, when an employee cannot work or telework due to certain circumstances related to COVID-19, including but not limited to:
The DOL defines a full-time employee as an employee who works over 40 hours per week. EPSL for part-time employees is based on the number of hours worked, on average, over a 2 week period for time out of the office due to illness. All employees regardless of employee type (regular, temporary, or unclassified) who are sick and seeking a medical diagnosis are eligible for this leave, with the exception of healthcare providers and emergency responders.
The EFMLEA requires certain employers to expand job protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to cover eligible employees who are unable to work or telework so that they may care for children if schools are closed or their caregivers are unavailable because of a public health emergency. Employees are eligible for EFML if they have been employed for at least 30 calendar days, with the exception of healthcare providers and emergency responders.
Unlike traditional FMLA, EFML is paid leave after the first two work weeks of protected leave. Employees may elect to utilize EPSL or other available accrued leave during the unpaid period. After the first two work weeks, pay shall be calculated based on: (I) an amount that is not less than two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay and (II) the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled to work. The employee may elect to supplement EFML pay with accrued leave up to, but not exceeding, 100% of the employee’s normal base pay.
For more information on the FFCRA and Loudoun County procedures related to the FFCRA, please refer to Administrative Policies and Procedures HR-46 (PDF).
Aside from EPSL and EFML as explained in the response to Question #2 above, the County is operating under its normal policies and procedures governing the use of sick leave and teleworking while sick. Employees and supervisors should follow the relevant policies and their department’s normal protocols. Generally, if an employee is feeling sick or displaying cold or flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, coughing, body aches, shortness of breath, etc., the employee should stay home, refrain from teleworking, and use accrued sick leave or other available accrued paid leave to cover their time out of the office.
The chart above is intended to be a summary of relevant County policies and is not intended to include every possible scenario or policy requirement. Links to relevant County policies can be found below. However, where the policy is inconsistent with guidance provided in this FAQ, please follow the guidance detailed in this FAQ. In addition to the County’s Human Resources policies and procedures, employees must follow their specific department’s procedures and protocols regarding requesting leave and telework.
Employees who are sick should stay home and use paid sick leave to cover their time away from the office. Supervisors and managers have the discretion to send home an employee who reports to work sick or who is displaying cold or flu symptoms (such as fever, chills, coughing, body aches, shortness of breath, etc.). Please note, merely experiencing these symptoms does not mean that an employee has COVID-19; it only means that the employee is sick and should go home. Supervisors and managers who intend to send an employee home should speak with the employee privately and should not discuss with other employees that the employee was sent home or why.
If the employee is experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms and is in the process of seeking a medical diagnosis, the employee may be able to use Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL). EPSL is available to cover the first 80 hours (full-time employees working 40+ hours per week) or two weeks (part-time) based on the number of hours worked, on average, over a 2 week period, for time out of the office due to illness. All employees regardless of employee type (regular, temporary, or unclassified) who are sick and seeking a medical diagnosis are eligible for this leave, with the exception of healthcare providers and emergency responders. Once this leave type is expended, the employee will use accrued sick leave and other paid leave (if sick leave is not available) if more leave time is needed. The employee should follow the guidance of their healthcare practitioner as to when to return to work.
Managers do not have the authority to unilaterally require an employee to provide a doctor’s note “clearing” the employee to return to work. The request for a medical note must be coordinated through the Department of Human Resources, Employee Relations Division. Return to work certifications are typically required of employees who are on approved Family Medical Leave or Workers’ Compensation, employees who are subject to the County’s Fitness for Duty process, and employees who are on leave as a reasonable accommodation.
Employees should follow the guidance of their healthcare practitioner as to when they are well enough to return to work. The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
Employees who have concerns about health issues in the workplace should report these concerns to their immediate supervisor, a department manager, or the Department of Human Resources. Employees should not confront other employees with regard to their health status or the health status of a family member. Supervisors and managers who receive reports of such concerns should call the Department of Human Resources, Employee Relations Division, to seek guidance.
If the employee is experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms and is in the process of seeking a medical diagnosis, the employee may be able to use Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL). EPSL is available to cover the first 80 hours (full-time employees working 40+ hours per week) or two weeks (part-time) based on the number of hours worked, on average, over a 2 week period, for time out of the office due to illness. All employees regardless of employee type (regular, temporary, or unclassified) who are sick and seeking a medical diagnosis are eligible for this leave, with the exception of healthcare providers and emergency responders. Once this leave type is expended, the employee will use accrued sick leave and other paid leave (if sick leave is not available) if more leave time is needed.
If an employee becomes seriously ill and exhausts all paid leave accruals, the employee should contact the Department of Human Resources, Benefits Division, at 703-777-0213 to discuss possible eligibility for short-term disability and/or donated leave. Approvals of short-term disability and donated leave will be subject to existing eligibility requirements and restrictions. Information related to short-term disability and donated leave can be found here:
Employees suffering from an illness of ordinary life, such as a cold or flu virus, should not be required or allowed to work from home in lieu of taking sick or other accrued paid leave. However, as noted in the chart above, an asymptomatic employee who has been placed under a self-quarantine order from the Health Department will be required to work from home until the order to self-quarantine ends or until the employee becomes ill. If the employee becomes ill, the employee must advise management of their illness, at which point the requirement to telework will end and the employee may be able to use Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL), or in the alternative, the employee must utilize their accrued paid leave.
It depends. Family Medical Leave is federally mandated, unpaid, job protected leave that covers a period of incapacitation due to a “serious health condition.” Generally, minor ailments such as the cold and flu are not considered serious health conditions that are covered by Family Medical Leave. However, depending on factors such as the length of absence needed to recover, the number of visits or treatments required by the healthcare practitioner, the need for an overnight stay in the hospital, and/or any health complications that may arise, an employee with who is diagnosed with COVID-19 may qualify for Family Medical Leave. An employee with COVID-19 should contact the Department Human Resources, Benefits Division, at 703-777-0213 to discuss possible eligibility for Family Medical Leave. Employees can apply for Family Medical Leave through FMLA Source, the County’s Family Medical Leave vendor. To determine eligibility, FMLA Source will request a medical certification from the employee’s healthcare practitioner with information relevant to the employee’s specific situation.
More information on FMLA policies is available on the employee intranet or HR Liaison (PDF).
If there is reason to believe that the employee’s illness arose out of their employment and was contracted in the course of performing their duties, such as a healthcare worker or first responder who provided care to a patient with the COVID-19 virus, the employee must file a workers’ compensation claim and the claim will be forwarded to SmartCasualtyClaims, the County’s third-party administrator, for a compensability determination. Paid leave for an employee who has filed a workers’ compensation claim related to COVID-19 must be coordinated by department management through the Risk Management Section of the Department of Human Resources.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) applies where the employee is caring for an individual whose healthcare practitioner advises the individual to quarantine or isolate. All employees regardless of employee type (regular, temporary, or unclassified) are eligible from day one of employment, with the exception of healthcare providers and emergency responders.
The DOL has defined an “individual” under this section as an employee’s immediate family member, a person who regularly resides in the employee’s home, or a similar person with whom the employee has a relationship that creates an expectation that the employee would care for the person if he or she were quarantined or self-quarantined. “Individual” does not include persons with whom the employee has no personal relationship
After exhaustion of EPSL, the normal sick leave policy and procedures apply for employees caring for an immediate family member, defined as the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent and any of these relations as a step. EPSL does not apply where the employee is caring for an individual who is exhibiting symptoms, and the sick leave policy will apply for employees in this situation. The employee would need to follow their department’s normal procedure for requesting sick leave and the use of such leave is subject to applicable County policies. Employees may be eligible to utilize Family Medical Leave, if their family member’s illness meets the definition for a serious health condition. The employee should contact the Department of Human Resources, Benefits Division, at 703-777-0213 for more information on the use of Family Medical Leave to care for a family member.
Loudoun County Public Schools has announced a COVID-19 related school closure beginning Thursday, March 12, 2020 through the end of the academic year. Three options are available to employees experiencing child care issues as a result of the closing of Loudoun County Public Schools or their private daycare provider. These options include:
Employees should consult with their department leadership to determine the mutually agreeable solution. In accordance with policy, telework requires approval of the department director. Please note, under existing County policy telework is not ordinarily authorized for the purposes of dependent care. However, the County Administrator has temporarily lifted this restriction as an emergency measure due to business necessity.
The County has precluded all non-essential travel until further notice. Non-essential travel includes travel for conferences and optional training that can be postponed until a later date. Therefore, no travel should be scheduled at this time. In addition, if already scheduled, employees are advised to contact the conference vendor to discuss the possibility of the conference being canceled by the vendor and/or the vendor’s policy for attendees who wish to cancel their registration due to concerns related to COVID-19. The employee is also responsible for contacting any hotel, airline, and/or rental car vendors to attempt to arrange for a refund of charges. The employee is also responsible for contacting any travel insurance provider where travel insurance was purchased and may apply.
Employees covered by the County’s medical insurance plan have access to Cigna’s Virtual Care services 24/7/365 days of the year, including holidays and weekends. Virtual care services can be used in place of seeing a physician in-person for minor medical conditions and costs less than emergency room or urgent care visits. Virtual care services can be a good option when you need to limit exposure to the public and for reserving emergency rooms for true emergencies. All virtual care visits are with board-certified physicians. Covered employees should take the time now to register for virtual care services prior to using the service. Register for Cigna’s virtual care networks Amwell or MDLive in any one of the following ways:
The employee or covered dependent must provide their name, gender, date of birth, email and Cigna ID# to register and create an account. You will also be asked to provide some medical history including drug allergies and a form of payment (such as a credit card). For individuals enrolled in the OAP or POS plans, an office visit copay will be charged at time of visit. For individuals enrolled in the HRA or HSA plan, the discounted cost of the visit will be applied to the deductible until satisfied.
The County offers resources available to employees and members of their household who may need emotional support. Call Lytle EAP at 800-327-7272 or visit www.lytleeap.com, click “Work/Life Website Login,” and then create a new account with the company code “lcgovt” for access to online resources. Counselors are able to assist 24 hours a day. Employees and members of their household are provided up to four (4) confidential counseling sessions (public safety employees are provided up to eight (8) confidential counseling sessions). This benefit is available to all regular employees and long-term temporary employees who work longer than 90 days.
Employees who are covered under the Cigna medical plan who have exhausted their counseling sessions with Lytle or who wish to seek counseling directly through Cigna’s network may utilize Cigna’s behavioral health services to receive three (3) face-to-face counseling sessions at no cost. If additional counseling sessions are needed, continuation of services may occur at the normal copay for OAP/POS plans or applicable coinsurance for the HRA/HSA plans after the deductible has been met.
To access services visit myCigna.com, Review My Coverage, Employee Assistance Program. You can call 877.231.1492 for referrals or go online, search the provider directory and obtain an authorization. You can also call Cigna customer service at 800.244.6224. If there isn’t a number on your card, call Cigna Behavioral Health at 800.274.7603.
To minimize any financial impact for testing, Cigna is providing coverage at no cost to the covered members for COVID-19 testing including applicable office visit copays and other lab fees. COVID-19 testing has been designated as an essential benefit and coverage is at 100% through our health plan. Cigna continues to review their coverage position as the coronavirus pandemic expands.
If you have a question related to the specific operations of your department, your best resource for information would be your Department Director, supervisor, or other member of management within your department. For Human Resources related questions, you are free to call the Department of Human Resources’ main number, 703-777-0213, between normal business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.). You will be routed to the appropriate staff member to best assist you.