The Utah National Guard is closely monitoring the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The safety of our service members and their families is our top priority. The information and links below are meant as a resource to assist our public in maintaining a safe environment in Utah. Follow our official Twitter account for more information:
Questions regarding impact to annual training, overseas missions or local assemblies will be shared as official guidance through service member's chain of command.
The State of Utah has opened a hotline to answer public questions regarding COVID-19: Utah Coronavirus Information Line 800-456-7707
The COVID-19 outbreak is evolving rapidly, and the U.S. government is constantly making adjustments to respond to the changing nature of this global public health emergency with a goal of continuing to slow the introduction of the virus into the United States and prepare our communities for more cases and possible sustained spread.
Extensive work has been done over the past 15 years in the United States to prepare for an influenza pandemic, and influenza pandemic preparedness platforms and plans are appropriate for the current COVID-19 outbreak and pre-pandemic phase.
Public health partners are encouraged to review their pandemic preparedness plans and begin planning for community spread. CDC has updated pre-pandemic planning guidelines for community mitigation strategies, including non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), which are used to plan and prepare for a flu pandemic, and should be used for COVID-19.
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When a supervisor observes an employee at the workplace exhibiting medical symptoms, he or she can express general concern regarding the employee’s health and remind the employee of his or her leave options for seeking medical attention, such as requesting sick or annual leave. Supervisors may refer to CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for some tips on how to handle employees showing symptoms of acute respiratory illness. See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business-response.html. However, supervisors should consider this guidance in conjunction with OPM guidance for the federal workforce.
The GTCC cannot be used to prepay the costs of emergency healthcare.
However, the organization does have the flexibility to prepay the cost of emergency healthcare if the situation warrants it. Please reach out to the USPFO as they will be able to advise you on how to properly apply DoD Component funds to prepay any medical needs. Furthermore, if the Department of Labor determines the illness is work-related, the employee may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Supervisors should consult with the HR office for guidance. UTNG may grant sick leave only when supported by evidence administratively acceptable to the agency. For absences in excess of 3 days, or for a lesser period when determined necessary by the agency, a supervisor may require a medical certificate or other administratively acceptable evidence.
Under current rules through OPM, leadership may require medical evaluation or screening only when the need for such evaluation is supported by the nature of the work (see 5 CFR 339.301). Attempts on the part of a supervisor to assume a particular medical diagnosis based on observable symptoms is very problematic and should be avoided. However, when a supervisor observes an employee exhibiting symptoms of illness, he or she may express concern regarding the employee’s health and remind the employee of his or her leave options for seeking medical attention, such as requesting sick or annual leave. If the employee has no leave available, supervisors are authorized to approve requests for advanced leave or leave without pay in certain circumstances. Agencies should also note the provisions of 5 CFR 630.401(a)(5), which require the approval of requests for sick leave if an employee is determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider, to “jeopardize the health of others by his or her presence on the job because of exposure to a communicable disease.”
The infected employee’s privacy will be protected to the greatest extent possible; therefore, his or her identity will not be disclosed. In an outbreak of quarantinable communicable disease or COVID-19, leadership should share only that information determined to be necessary to protect the health of the employees in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Supervisors should consult with HRO and the SJA to determine what information is releasable. Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/assess-manage-risk.html
If social distancing, information sharing, or other precautions to assist employees in recognizing symptoms or reducing the spread of the illness can be taken without disclosing information related to a specific employee, that is the preferred approach.
Supervisors will work with their workplace safety contacts and the Occupational Health Nurse to stay apprised of information regarding transmission of the illness and precautions that should be taken to reduce the spread of influenza or any other contagious disease in the workplace. Leadership will treat this as they would any other illness in the workplace and continue to protect employee privacy interests while providing sufficient information to all employees related to protecting themselves against the spread of illness.
Supervisors may require an employee to take leave or stay away from the worksite based on objective evidence only (not suspicion). Supervisors should obtain assistance from HR staff and/or on-site employee Occupational Health Nurse (OHN) - Carrie Papproth. Objective evidence will depend on the facts of each case. Objective evidence could consist of a statement from the health authorities having jurisdiction or from a health care provider that the employee is physically unable to work or poses a danger to other employees or knowledge the employee resides in an area that has been quarantined. Consultation with public health officials may be appropriate. Less definitive, but potentially sufficient, evidence would be the employee making specific comments about being exposed to pandemic influenza or to a quarantinable communicable disease such as COVID-19 (e.g., taking care of a sick relative or friend). If such comments are made, supervisors should consult with HR and OHN to assess whether a determination from a public health official is appropriate and necessary.
Human resources offices,OHN, and the SJA should be contacted to determine the best course of action based on objective evidence. HRO specialists and the OHN have the necessary knowledge to assist supervisors with options, such as telework, and appropriate actions arising from an outbreak of a quarantinable communicable disease or pandemic influenza. HR staff and the OHN are checking OPM’s website (www.opm.gov) and the CDC website (www.cdc.gov) on a regular basis to stay current.
Yes, an agency could authorize Weather and Safety leave to non-telework program participants whose office or armory is closed. Telework program participants would be expected to continue working and may not receive weather and safety leave.
To mitigate community transmission and protect vulnerable populations, employees may be advised to implement social distancing strategies. Such strategies include the use of telework, teleconferences, and flexible work schedules (e.g., schedules that provide for flexible work days and/or work hours). To prepare to implement such strategies. In addition, supervisors will encourage employees eligible to telework, but who are not current telework program participants to participate. UTNG may periodically exercise our telework capabilities to ensure that program participants have the information technology, infrastructure, and procedures needed to support simultaneous telework by multiple employees. In addition, supervisors should determine how they will conduct operations with high absenteeism rates. For example, it may be appropriate to cross-train personnel on key functions.
Employees in these circumstances are not eligible for weather and safety leave.
UTNG may authorize telework participants to telework when there are young children or other persons requiring care and supervision in the case of an emergency. Employees under these circumstances must still account for work and non-work hours during his or her tour of duty and take appropriate leave (paid or unpaid) to account for time spent away from normal work-related duties (e.g., to care for a child or dependent). Employees who are not telework program participants may use annual leave or other paid time off, such as accrued compensatory time or credit hours. If authorized by policy, supervisors may authorize alternative work schedules (compressed or flexible work schedules) that provide for flexible work days and/or work hours.
UTNG is currently addressing our telework policy to include potential situations that may prevent or impact an employee’s ability to effectively perform his or her duties at home. This includes policies regarding the conditions under which employees may telework, even if they have a young child or other person requiring the presence of a caregiver in the home. (For additional information please see OPM Guidance on Telework and Dependent Care at: https://www.telework.gov/guidance-legislation/telework-guidance/telework-and-dependent-care/.)
Because our policy bars an employee from teleworking at his or her home when there is a child or elder care situation, then the home is not an approved location under OPM’s regulations. Since Federal offices remain OPEN, agencies may not authorize weather and safety leave to employees who cannot telework with children in the home. Employees should either report to their worksite or request annual leave or other paid time off if they are unable to report to the worksite.
Use of weather and safety leave would be subject to the normal conditions—for example, weather and safety leave may be granted only if an employee is not able to safely travel to or perform work at an approved location. Thus, an employee who is not a telework program participant would be granted weather/safety leave for quarantine periods under the direction of local or public health authorities. However, in the case of telework program participants, the employee’s home is generally an approved location. Thus, the employee would generally be expected to perform telework at home as long as the employee is asymptomatic. (See 5 CFR 630.1605.) If a telework program participant in these circumstances needs time off for personal reasons, then the employee would be expected to take other personal leave or paid time off (e.g., annual leave or sick leave to care for a family member).
For an employee covered by a telework agreement, ad hoc telework arrangements can be used as a flexibility to promote social distancing and can be an alternative to the use of sick leave for exposure to a quarantinable communicable disease for an employee who is asymptomatic or caring for a family member who is asymptomatic. An employee’s request to telework from home while responsible for such a family member may be approved for the length of time the employee is free from care duties and has work to perform to effectively contribute to the agency’s mission. The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires “agencies to incorporate telework into their continuity of operations plan”. The UTNG will have written telework agreements in place with as many employees who are willing to participate and communicate expectations for telework in emergency situations.
An employee must always have a sufficient amount of work to perform throughout the workday when he or she teleworks. An employee performing telework who does not have enough work must notify his or her supervisor, and receive additional work or discuss leave options such as annual leave, advanced annual leave, other paid time off (e.g., earned compensatory time off, earned credit hours), or leave without pay.
Yes. During an agency closure due to COVID-19, “when an agency Continuity of Operation Plan (COOP) has not been initiated and the World Health Organization has NOT declared a pandemic, telework program participants will generally be expected to continue working from home”. All telework program participants will be ineligible for weather and safety leave during a closure except in rare circumstances when one of the exceptions under 5 CFR 630.1605(a)(2) applies. They must telework for the entire workday, take other leave (paid or unpaid) or other time off, or use a combination of telework and leave or other paid time off. (Note: A telework program participant may also be referred to as a “telework-ready” employee.) For more information, please see:
No. Sick leave would be used to cover such a period of sickness, as provided in 5 CFR 630.401(a)(2). Agencies must grant sick leave when an illness, such as COVID-19, prevents an employee from performing work.
Yes. However, while sick leave may be advanced at UTNG’s discretion, it is not an employee entitlement. The sick leave regulations allow an employee to be advanced sick leave for exposure to a quarantinable communicable disease, subject to the limitations below:
• 240 hours (30 days) may be advanced if the employee would jeopardize the health of others by his or her presence on the job because of exposure to a quarantinable communicable disease;
• 104 hours (13 days) may be advanced if the employee is providing care for a family member who would jeopardize the health of others by his or her presence in the community because of exposure to a quarantinable communicable disease.
Not necessarily. Under OPM’s regulations (5 CFR 630.405(a)), an agency may grant sick leave only when the need for sick leave is supported by administratively acceptable evidence. UTNG may consider an employee’s self-certification as to the reason for his or her absence as administratively acceptable evidence, regardless of the duration of the absence. The UTNG may also require a medical certificate, or other administratively acceptable evidence, as to the reason for an absence for any of the purposes for which sick leave is granted for an absence in excess of 3 workdays, or for a lesser period when the agency determines it is necessary. Supervisors should use their best judgment and follow internal policies for granting sick leave. Supervisors should also be mindful about the burden and impact of requiring a medical certificate.
An employee, covered by a telework agreement, may request to telework with the permission of the supervisor. UTNG (HRO) will consider expanding telework to any telework eligible employees to provide additional flexibility for employees. For employees who are not currently covered by a telework agreement, supervisors may also consider whether the employee has some portable duties (e.g., reading reports; analyzing documents and studies; preparing written letters, memorandums, reports and other correspondence; setting up conference calls, or other tasks that do not require the employee to be physically present), that would allow him/her to telework on a situational basis. An ad-hoc telework agreement should be signed to cover the period the employee is permitted to work from the approved alternate location (e.g., home).
An employee may also request to take annual leave, advanced annual leave, other paid time off (e.g., earned compensatory time off, earned credit hours), or leave without pay. An agency may not authorize weather and safety leave to an employee under this scenario. The use of sick leave would be limited to circumstances where an employee has become symptomatic (ill) due to a quarantinable communicable disease, such as COVID-19.
Currently, an employee may use annual leave, advanced annual leave, other paid time off (e.g., earned compensatory time off, earned credit hours), or leave without pay to care for a family member who is healthy but has been quarantined due to COVID-19. An employee, covered by a telework agreement, may be able to telework pursuant to an ad hoc arrangement with the permission of the supervisor during the quarantine period. Provided the employee has telework capabilities and sufficient work to perform, the UTNG will be flexible in determining whether the employee can accomplish his or her duties from home while caring for a family member. An employee may telework during the time he or she is not responsible for caring for a family member and must request annual leave, advanced annual leave, other paid time off (e.g., earned compensatory time off, earned credit hours), or leave without pay while caring for a family member.
The UTNG may authorize weather and safety leave for an asymptomatic employee who is subject to movement restrictions (quarantine or isolation) under the direction of public health authorities due to a significant risk of exposure to a quarantinable communicable disease, such as COVID-19.
The UTNG may authorize weather and safety leave to an employee exposed to COVID-19, even if asymptomatic, if a local health authority determines the employee would jeopardize the health of others if allowed to return to work. Employees should refer to CDC guidance (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business-response.html) for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
No. the UTNG will not authorize weather and safety leave in this instance. An employee who is healthy and is caring for an asymptomatic family member may request annual leave, advanced annual leave, other paid time off (e.g., earned compensatory time off, earned credit hours), or leave without pay for the period of absence from his or her job. In addition, an employee who is caring for an asymptomatic family member who has been exposed to a quarantinable communicable disease, and who is covered by a telework agreement, may also request to telework pursuant to that arrangement to the extent possible.
If the employee's family member becomes symptomatic (ill) with a quarantinable communicable disease, such as COVID-19, sick leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition would be appropriate.
Yes. An agency may order an employee to work from home (or an alternative location mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee) without regard to whether the agency and the employee have a telework agreement in place at the time the order to evacuate is issued. Leadership will consult with offices of human resources and SJA to determine appropriate collective bargaining obligations where bargaining unit employees are impacted.
Under OPM regulations, the UTNG may assign “any work considered necessary without regard to the employee's grade or title”. However, the UTNG may not assign work to an employee unless the organization knows the employee has the necessary knowledge and skills to perform the assigned work.
The agency head (USPFO), “in his or her sole and exclusive discretion, may grant special allowance payments, based on a case-by-case analysis, to offset the direct added expenses incidental to performing work from home (or an alternative location mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee) during a pandemic health crisis”. (See 5 CFR 550.409(b).) An employee is not entitled to special allowance payments for increased costs during an evacuation unless specifically approved through proper leadership channels.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published guidance and recommended measures to help prevent occupational exposure to COVID-19 in Federal workplaces. See OSHA’s COVID-19 guidance at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/index.html
See also CDC guidance: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business-response.html
Information on worker’s compensation benefits for Federal employees related to COVID-19 can be found at https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/InfoFECACoverageCoronavirus.html