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Jul 15

City Manager's Message: 7-15-2020: Reminder of safety steps as COVID-19 cases increase

Posted on July 15, 2020 at 3:59 PM by Don Mann

Yesterday, the governor addressed rising COVID-19 case counts in the Hampton Roads region. He reminded Virginians of the importance of wearing face masks, keeping physical distance and continuing sanitizing practices. 
 
As case counts rise in our region, we are more likely to have employees who are exposed to individuals who test positive for COVID-19. Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to remind you of our organizational approach when we are notified about potential or actual exposures.
 
First, I want to stress that we had two overriding goals in establishing these procedures — employee safety and reliance on scientific data. At all times, we will do our best to protect the safety of our workforce. We will do so by relying on the best practices identified by the Virginia Department of Health.  This means we will neither under-react nor overreact to notifications of potential or actual exposures. 

Second, we have an in-house, trained team that was created in April to conduct contact tracing for our employees as to their city-related or work-based interactions. We have done this because we do not want to have to wait on already-strained VDH resources to complete this review. Our internal team will be able to provide a quicker review, as we will often hear from an impacted employee before the VDH receives the test result. The internal team review helps us ensure we take the appropriate level of response promptly. Please note that the VDH may also do a subsequent contact tracing notification once it gets notified and as its resources allow. 

 
Please be assured that the team includes members of our Fire and Police Divisions, many of whom are medics with advanced paramedical training. All have been trained on the same techniques and assessment tools used by VDH in their contact-tracing efforts. Specifically, the internal team uses a 3-page screening tool that helps them assess the level of risk, the recommended actions that need to be taken for individuals who have been in contact with the confirmed case and necessary enhanced cleaning protocols that should be undertaken. The required individual and organizational response will vary based on the interaction. Factors considered in determining the appropriate response include but are not limited to whether individuals were or were not wearing masks during the interaction; how long the interaction took place; how close the individuals were when the interaction transpired; etc. 
 
The screening assessment tool will guide our notification of impacted employees. Please note that VDH guidance currently does not look at multiple levels of contacts. For instance, if person A has COVID-19, person A will be assessed and all people with whom there was more than a passing interaction (people B, C, D for the sake of this example) will be notified. However, those with whom B, C and D interacted are not notified unless people B, C and D have high risk and/or are subsequently diagnosed with a positive test result. So, if B, C and D interacted with E, F and G, there is no need to contact trace E, F and G or those with whom they interacted. Again, I emphasize that this is best practice as supported by the VDH and CDC guidance.
 
If/when an employee is identified as needing to take specific action, they will receive a written communication from the team that outlines the result of their screening. Employees are expected to follow that guidance. Employees are also expected to keep confidential from coworkers the results of their individual assessment and any next steps they are directed to take by the team except to the extent it is necessary to share such information with supervisors for scheduling purposes. Further, employees should not engage in speculation as to whom the confirmed individual might be as we must ensure that we protect each individual’s private health information and minimize incorrect speculation and needless stress for others. All individuals who need to take actions will receive a personal notification. Unless or until you receive such notification, no special action or precaution other than the already-outlined general workforce practices (mask wearing when not socially distanced, sanitizing, etc.) is necessary.
 
I want to remind us all how very important it is that we follow these outlined general workforce practices. The information provided by the VDH and CDC confirms these practices to be the best protective measures we can all take to avoid infection. Wearing a face mask, practicing physical distancing and enhanced sanitation efforts are proven to minimize spread. As employees, we are all expected to adhere to these guidelines, and the fact that we have largely done so has resulted in very few cases to date. 

Additionally, employees are reminded that they are to self-monitor before reporting to work. Self-monitoring includes a review as to whether any of the following symptoms are present and unrelated to an underlying medical condition:
  1. Fever at or above 100.4 degrees
  2. Chills
  3. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  4. Fatigue
  5. Muscle or body aches
  6. Headache 
  7. New loss of taste or smell
  8. Sore throat
  9. Congestion or running nose
  10. Nausea 
  11. Vomiting 
If an employee is experiencing any of the above symptoms, they should not report to work, and they should notify their supervisor and discuss telework options for their scheduled work hours, if available. Employees are also expected to notify the Department of Human Resources and their department head if they or anyone with whom they have close contact has been diagnosed with COVID-19 so that we can undertake the screening process outlined above.
 
Last, but not least, I urge you not to make assumptions about what we or other cities are doing. For instance, you may read about a neighboring city completely shutting down for one day because of a confirmed COVID-19 case. I trust that they made that decision based upon the CDC/VDH guidance, just as we would. That does not mean, however, that we would do that with every case here. We might and we might not — 
it truly depends on the type of exposure and how pervasive that exposure was within that facility. However, I can assure you that we will follow the identified best practice based on the relevant facts.

 
If you have any questions or concerns about this process, I urge you to let your Department Head or me know so we can provide more information to give you a clear understanding.  We have been navigating this pandemic for over 4 months now, and it appears that it will continue to impact us in all aspects of our lives.  I remind you that our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to you and your immediate family members free of charge.  The website has an abundance of resources related to COVID-19 and other topics available to members and are offering confidential virtual appointments if you need to speak with someone in person.  The website is www.optimaeap.com and the company username is “cityofhampton”.
 
Thank you for doing your part to keep our workplace safe under these unprecedented circumstances and stay well.
 
— Mary

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