COVID-19 Employee guidance banner

Current COVID-19 Work, Stay Home Order, and Leave Guidance

As the rapidly changing situation continues to unfold, we want to ensure that you continue to get timely guidance on work and leave issues. We recognize many employees across the County may be working modified schedules and working remotely, and that some may be unable to work in the coming weeks and months. Below is current guidance to help you navigate options.

 
First and foremost, we want to thank our essential employees who must be physically on-site in their regular workplace or designated workplace, to perform essential functions on behalf of the County. Employees who have any questions about their status as essential personnel should contact their supervisors for clarification. We want to provide the fullest support and appreciation to these employees as they continue to perform their regular duties.

  1. COVID-19 FAQ's
  2. Telework Policy
  3. Employee Tips

This information is based on current recommendations, as of August 18, 2021, and is subject to revision as new information becomes available.

 

First and foremost, we expect employees to monitor their own health and avoid reporting to work if they believe they might be sick.

 

Updated mask guidance as of August 18, 2021 – this new guidance modifies/overrides some of the answers below, as appropriate.

 

Earlier today, the Governor issued a statewide indoor mask mandate for all residents regardless of vaccination status. In addition, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s Director of Health issued a mask directive.
 
 Until further notice, Pierce County employees are to wear masks at work - regardless of vaccination status - when in indoor public spaces and outdoors where social distancing is not possible. Visitors to our offices will also be required to wear masks. We continue to follow current guidance and requirements from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries on worker safety.
 
Please keep in mind the best way to stay safe and help Pierce County move past the pandemic is to get vaccinated. You can get the details about where vaccines are available at https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/.

 

Q. Must I continue to wear a face covering at work?

A. Previous June 10, 2021 guidance - It depends. Governor Inslee modified the masking and social distancing mandates for those who have been fully vaccinated (two weeks post last vaccine dose). Effective June 1, in most County facilities, fully vaccinated employees who wish to no longer wear a mask and/or practice social distancing at work may request permission to do so using the following process:

 

1.  Employees initiate the request by presenting valid proof of vaccination status to their supervisor or manager.

2.  Proof of vaccination may be the physical card received at the time of vaccination, a photograph of the card, documentation from a medical provider, or documentation from the state immunization information system of full vaccination.

3.  Please do not email, text, fax, mail, or send your vaccine documentation in any way to your supervisor. Instead, please visually show your supervisor your vaccine documentation in person or virtually by holding it up to your camera during a videoconference call.

4.  The manager/supervisor will attest in Workday to the employee having been fully vaccinated (unless your department utilizes a different verification method).

5.  No document will be recorded or maintained in any database or file, only the date of the verification.

 

It is important to understand that guidance is not changing for some settings including correctional facilities, schools and childcare centers. Employees of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Assessor-Treasurer, and those working in the Courts should follow guidance they will receive from their department.

 

Please reach out to your supervisor or manager with questions, and keep in mind that this guidance does not require anyone to work without a mask or social distancing. Making this request is voluntary. Employees who are not fully vaccinated, or who choose not to submit a request, are required to continue wearing a face covering and practicing social distancing while at work, as long as the mask mandate remains in effect. Discrimination or harassment against employees based on their choice to wear a mask and socially distance or not, will not be tolerated.

 

Q. Do customers and visitors have to wear a face covering when entering a County facility?

A. Both customers and visitors to County facilities are assumed to have been fully vaccinated if they enter a County facility without a mask. It is not necessary for employees to inquire or attempt to verify a customer’s or visitor’s vaccination status. However, face coverings will continue to be made available to those who wish to wear one.

 

Q. What constitutes a face covering?

A. A face covering is a piece of fabric which covers your nose and mouth. Examples of face coverings include a cloth mask, multiple layers of fabric tied around your head, or a bandana. If a more protective face covering is required due to the type of work performed, those requirements must be followed.

 

Q. Will Pierce County provide employees and members of the public with face coverings?

A. Yes. Face coverings will continue to be made available to County employees, customers, and visitors if they have not been fully vaccinated or for those who wish to continue to wear one.

 

Q. I have a health condition that precludes me from getting vaccinated and/or have elected not to get a vaccination, therefore, I must continue to wear a face covering. However, I have a medical condition that precludes me from wearing a face covering. Do I still need to wear one?

A. There are certain exemptions to the requirement to wear a face covering, including people who have been fully vaccinated, those with certain medical conditions for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing, and people who are deaf or hard of hearing. If you are unable to wear a face covering due to a health condition, please contact Human Resources at [email protected].

 

Q. If I have not been fully vaccinated, can I wear a face shield instead of a mask?

A. The Department of Labor and Industries has said that while a face shield can reduce the spread of droplets during respiratory exhalations, coughs, and sneezing, it is not as effective and does not replace the requirement to wear a cloth or disposable face covering while at work unless an accommodation has been approved due to a medical condition.

 

Q. Can I continue to wear a face covering even if I have been fully vaccinated?

A. Yes. There are many reasons that you may choose to continue masking and social distancing, and the County supports you making the choice that is appropriate and comfortable for you. Discrimination or harassment against employees based on their choice to wear a mask and socially distance or not, will not be tolerated.

 

Q. I have already had COVID-19 but have not been vaccinated. Do I need to wear a face covering and socially distance at work?

A. Yes. The recent change in masking and social distancing guidance is only applicable to those who have been fully vaccinated. A person is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks after they have received the second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) or two weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen). If you have not been fully vaccinated you must continue to wear a face covering and social distance while at work.

 

Q. I have not been vaccinated and must continue to wear a face covering unless working alone. Does working alone in a cubicle count as “alone in an office?”

A. It might. Employees’ cubicles will be evaluated on an individual basis. L&I defines “alone” as being isolated from interaction with other people and having little or no expectation of in-person interruption. Examples of working alone include:

  • A person by themselves inside a vehicle.
  • A person by themselves inside an office with four walls and a door.
  • A person inside of a cubicle with four walls (one with an opening for an entryway) that are high enough to block the breathing zone of anyone walking by, and whose work activity will not require anyone to come inside of the cubicle.
  • A person by themselves outside with no anticipated contact with others.

Q. My co-worker is not fully vaccinated and is not wearing a face covering. Should I say something?

A. Some people have conditions or circumstances that make getting vaccinated or wearing a face covering difficult or even dangerous. Because of this, we do not recommend confronting your co-workers, but you should report your observation to your supervisor. Although the information will be kept confidential, any concerns regarding the ability of an employee to wear a face covering will be handled by their chain of command.

 

Q. Is the County requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

A. No, but the County is encouraging employees to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Currently, all individuals age 12 and over are eligible to get vaccinated. (Updated 9/3/2021 - The County has determined that there are some positions that are impacted by the Governor’s Proclamation 21-14.1. Those impacted have been notified directly.)

 

Q. Am I required to tell the County if I have been vaccinated?

A. No, you are not required to report your vaccination status unless you wish to stop wearing a face covering or if a supervisor or manager needs to determine a threat of exposure to COVID-19. While the County highly encourages employees to get the vaccine, the decision to do so is a personal choice. Employees should refrain from discussing the medical choices of others and are expected to be professional and respectful, should they become aware of someone’s vaccination status. However, if your position requires vaccination, please consult with your supervisor or Human Resources for specific guidance. 

 

Q. Is it a HIPAA violation for the County to ask my vaccine status?

A. No. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that protects sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge, and only applies to healthcare providers, insurance companies, and healthcare clearinghouses.

 

Q. Can I get vaccinated on County time, or do I need to use my accruals?

A. You must use your accruals if you need leave to get vaccinated. Since the vaccine is considered medical care, you may utilize your sick leave accruals. Please keep in mind that two of the CDC approved vaccines currently available require two doses, so plan your leave accordingly. Please contact your supervisor for further guidance if you do not have any available accruals, are eligible for the vaccine, and are unable to schedule your vaccine during non-work hours, as you may be able to flex your schedule to accommodate your appointment time. However, if your position requires vaccination, please consult with your supervisor or Human Resources for specific guidance.

 

Q. Will the County be implementing health screening or temperature checks for employees before returning to work?

A. The County is not requiring temperature checks for employees at most locations. However, we encourage all employees to conduct a self-assessment at home prior to coming to work on-site.

 

Q. Will employees be sent home if they are showing COVID-19 symptoms?

A. Employees may be sent home and directed to contact the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) if they are displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19 as outlined by health officials. Please contact Human Resources for a specific case-by-case analysis.

 

Q. What happens if someone in the workplace tests positive for COVID-19?

A. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, they should follow the guidance provided by their health care provider or TPCHD. If an employee notifies their department that they have tested positive for COVID-19, the department should contact the TPCHD for further guidance. The TPCHD will provide the department with appropriate steps and gather information for contact tracing and risk assessment. The department may also notify employees who may have been in contact with the employee who tested positive and advise them to contact the TPCHD. The name of the infected employee will not be disclosed to fellow employees, unless requested and approved by the employee, but may be shared with the health department. The department will also notify either Facilities Management, or the respective building management company, to perform a deep cleaning of the space. This typically takes place within 24 hours of notification. If an employee has been exposed at work, they should notify their supervisor who will contact Risk Management. Risk Management will then ensure that any and all rules from L&I are followed.

 

Q. If I have been vaccinated, do I still need to quarantine if exposed?

A. Based on TPCHD guidance, employees who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to quarantine following a known exposure, if asymptomatic. If the employee becomes symptomatic, normal TPCHD quarantine/isolation guidance will apply which can be found here.

 

Q. If I work in the office, how can I protect myself while at work?

A. To the greatest extent possible, employees should take the following steps to protect themselves and others at work:

  • Get vaccinated, if you haven’t done so already.
  • Continue to wear a face covering, if unvaccinated.
  • Monitor your health closely for COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, loss of smell or taste, and shortness of breath.
  • Employees who have symptoms should notify their supervisor and stay home.
  • Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps which can be found here. Employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with healthcare providers.
  • Employees who are well, but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19, should notify their supervisor and follow CDC recommended precautions here.
  • Practice healthy personal hygiene: 
    • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. 
    • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow. Do not use your hands.
    • Immediately throw out tissues and wash your hands afterward.
    • Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. 
    • Have hand sanitizer available in your vehicle for you and your passengers.
    • Avoid contact with others; shaking hands, fist bumps, etc. Instead, wave at a safe distance.
    • Understand that no one with symptoms should be present at the workplace. Employees should inform their supervisor if they or their colleagues develop COVID-19 symptoms at work, especially fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
    • When possible, avoid contact with high-touch surfaces including elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, shaking hands with others, etc. Facilities Management and department managers are working to ensure there are disinfecting wipes, paper towels, or other means of avoiding high touch surfaces available at worksites. Please do your part in bringing areas of concern to your supervisor's attention.
    • Minimize handling cash, credit cards, and mobile or electronic devices when possible.
    • Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet away from fellow co-workers, customers, and visitors, when possible.

 Q. Are there additional cleaning procedures in place for County facilities?

A. All high-touch areas like stair handrails, elevator buttons, and door handles will be cleaned on a regular basis by custodial, or contractor staff. Employees will be provided with additional cleaning supplies to clean their personal workspace as necessary. And, additional cleaning supplies or ways to avoid high-touch areas (such as paper towels and a close garbage can) will be located near high-touch areas. Please do not bring in your own cleaning supplies. The County continues to work with all leased building spaces to ensure a higher level of cleaning. And, departments may have specific guidelines regarding additional cleaning expectations of employees.

 

Q. How will social distancing be maintained in the workplace?

A. Employees shall maintain the recommended six feet physical distancing from other employees and members of the public, unless fully vaccinated. The following measures may also be implemented in your department at this time:

  • Limit shared desks/workspaces unless cleaned before and after use.
  • Reduced use of shared office supplies/resources unless cleaned before and after use.
  • Restrict shared food at worksite.
  • Stagger arrival times to avoid congestion.
  • Limit entrances and exit points while maintaining fire exits.
  • Staggered entry into facilities.
  • Maintain one-way facility aisles wherever appropriate.
  • Post distance markings at places of congregation.
  • Install plexiglass partitions between workstations or service counters.
  • Employ no contact payment/pickup.
  • Utilize virtual meetings even when in office.
  • Reorganize floor layouts to permit physical distancing.
  • Stagger breaks and use of common areas.
  • Avoid sitting face-to-face.
  • Create isolated work cells wherever possible.
  • Wear a face covering when not at assigned workstation unless fully vaccinated.
  • Other measures as may be recommended by health officials.

 Q. What if social distancing is not possible in my workplace?

A. Employees must wear a face covering and continue to social distance except if fully vaccinated, when working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site. If social distancing is not possible in your workplace, your teleworking arrangement may be extended until social distancing can be achieved or is no longer necessary. If teleworking is not an option, it is possible that other options such as plexiglass barriers may be available.

 

Q. What if an area that was intended for social distancing is not working, or there is an area of high congestion that was not earlier identified?

A. Please contact your supervisor and let them know about the situation.

 

Q. What precautions should I take if I drive a county vehicle?

A. The general precautions for vehicle operators are below, however, your department may have more specific guidance for you to follow.

 

Vehicle operators are expected to take the following precautions to keep themselves and their passengers protected:

  • Clean and disinfect vehicles after each occupant. When cleaning and disinfecting:
    • Pay special attention to surfaces and objects that are touched often by passengers, such as door handles, window buttons, locks, arm rests, seat cushions, buckles and seatbelts. Also, wipe down surfaces that the driver frequently touches, such as the steering wheel, radio buttons, turn indicators and cup holders.
    • Keep the vehicle doors open while cleaning and disinfecting.
    • Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and only use them once. Throw gloves in the trash after use and wash hands immediately with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Do not touch your face or other clean surfaces with gloves.
    • Wait until all surfaces have dried before entering the vehicle.
    • Have hand sanitizer available in the vehicle for driver and passengers.
  • Unvaccinated employees should maintain social distancing:
    • Create personal space. Keep at least six feet of distance between yourself and others, when possible.
    • When riding in a vehicle with more than one employee, a cloth face covering must be worn.
    • When possible, ask passengers to sit in the back seats of the car. Doing so will increase physical distance between the driver and passengers. Pierce County may install a clear barrier between the front and back rows of the vehicle in some multi-passenger vehicles.
    • Do not use “recirculated air mode.” Instead, set ventilation in the vehicle to “non-recirculated air mode” in both the driver and passenger compartment. Open windows if this is not an option.
    • When riding in a vehicle with more than one person, turn away from other people when talking, coughing or sneezing.

 Q. Where can I find additional information?

A. You can find additional information on COVID-19 including information specific to State Reopening metrics, vaccines, face coverings, and social distancing by following the below links: