COVID-19 Coronavirus FAQs for State Employees

On March 10, 2020, Governor Cooper declared a State of Emergency to coordinate response and protective actions for the State of North Carolina based on the public health emergency posed by COVID-19: thus, the State Communicable Disease Emergency Policy is now active, but currently under review. State agency employees are encouraged to review the following FAQs related to coronavirus and the Communicable Disease Emergency Policy.

Questions or concerns should be discussed with your supervisor in consultation with your Human Resources Office.

Additional COVID-19 information:

These FAQs will be updated as conditions continue to evolve. Please check back regularly for updated information.

What is social distancing and why is it important?

What is social distancing and why is it important?

Social distancing is designed to limit the spread of disease by reducing the opportunities for close contact between people. Strategies include using conference calls and video conferencing in place of face-to-face meetings, avoiding unnecessary travel, and reinforcing handwashing and other common-sense precautions.

To blunt the spread of COVID-19, Governor Cooper ordered a ban on gatherings of 100 or more people, with some exceptions, effective March 14 as per Executive Order No. 117. The order also closed all public schools for at least two weeks, starting March 16.

Additionally, on March 17, after President Trump urged gatherings of no more than 10 people, Governor Cooper issued Executive Order No. 118 to limit operations of restaurants and bar to carry-out, drive-through and delivery only.

On March 20, Governor Cooper took further action by issuing Executive Order No. 119, which limited all Drivers License Office visits to appointment only, closed office locations where social distancing is not possible, and temporarily suspends, postpones, or waives certain components certain commercial vehicle requirements.

Executive Order No. 120 was issued on March 23, and gatherings were further limited to no more than 50 people, with public school closure extended to at least May 15. Governor Cooper also closed other businesses where social distancing is not feasible.

On March 27, Governor Cooper issued Executive Order No. 121, which ordered all North Carolinians to stay at home unless traveling to or from an essential business, as defined in the executive order.

If you are among a group of people where anyone appears to be ill or may have had contact with a person diagnosed with coronavirus, try to keep a distance of six feet from one another.

What are the factors that put an individual at high risk?

What are the factors that put an individual at high risk?

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services covers this topic in its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the agency’s coronavirus website. Given the fast-changing nature of this pandemic, we encourage individuals to check that link for the most current public health guidance. Screening measures for illnesses may be more specific in healthcare settings and correctional facilities.

What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19 and believe I am developing symptoms associated with the virus?

What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19 and believe I am developing symptoms associated with the virus?

If you think you are developing symptoms associated with COVID-19 and have reason to believe you have been exposed to the virus, the CDC recommends calling your doctor or Public Health department. If you are sick, notify your supervisor and stay home. An employee told by a doctor or public health official that they should be under isolation due to illness should not report to work and should follow the Sick Leave Policy when recording leave.

What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19 but do not have symptoms associated with the virus?

What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19 but do not have symptoms associated with the virus?

If you have reason to believe you have been exposed to the virus, the CDC recommends calling your doctor or Public Health department. A permanent or temporary employee told by a Public Health official that they should be under quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19 but is not yet symptomatic should notify their supervisor about the quarantine directive.

When an employee is quarantined, the employee shall be granted paid leave until the specified period of time ends or the employee becomes ill with the communicable disease, whichever comes first. The employee must provide proof of quarantine.

I’m worried about being exposed to coronavirus at work. How can I reduce my risk?

I’m worried about being exposed to coronavirus at work. How can I reduce my risk?

Employees are encouraged to use common-sense precautions at all times (when working, in the public, or at home). Precautions include:

  • Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds each time.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Do not reuse a tissue after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched (cell phones, desk phones, keyboards, remote controls, countertops, refrigerator and door handles, etc.).
  • And remember that employees who are sick should not come to work.

When possible, use social distancing to minimize your direct contact with others who may be unwell or who are vulnerable to illness. 

A person living in my household has returned from a CDC Level-3 country and has been asked by their employer to self-quarantine for 14 days. The individual is asymptomatic and has not been confirmed as having COVID-19. Am I required to self-quarantine?

A person living in my household has returned from a CDC Level-3 country and has been asked by their employer to self-quarantine for 14 days. The individual is asymptomatic and has not been confirmed as having COVID-19. Am I required to self-quarantine?

Employees should seek direction from their supervisor, in consultation with their agency Human Resources Office. The State of North Carolina follows CDC’s recommendations regarding whether to self-quarantine.

My family and I feel overwhelmed by the COVID-19 outbreak. What resources are available to help us cope?

My family and I feel overwhelmed by the COVID-19 outbreak. What resources are available to help us cope?

The State of North Carolina provides the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as part of the benefits program available to *state employees. EAP offers the support and resources you need to address personal or work-related challenges and concerns. It is free for you and members of your household and completely confidential. Contact your agency Human Resource Office for details.

EAP is managed for the State of North Carolina by McLaughlin Young Group. You may contact them online at https://www.mygroup.com/contact/ or by sending an email to myinfo@mygroup.com. EAP also may be reached by phone at 800-633-3353 or 704-529-1428.

*Note: Judicial Branch employees use Deer Oaks and UNC System employees use ComPsych

Who is eligible to use the newly created “State of Emergency Leave”?

Who is eligible to use the newly created “State of Emergency Leave”?

Agencies have several flexible options to support state employees who need to take time off due to COVID-19 infection or exposure, to care for sick family members, or to manage other eligible COVID-19 issues. Agencies may advance leave to employees without adequate leave to cover missed work time, allowing 24 months to make up the time without penalty. Agencies also have the discretion to use up to 10 days of special “State of Emergency Leave” for all employees who request leave due to having symptoms potentially related to COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath), subject to the availability of funds. This special leave also may be authorized for temporary employees, who normally do not earn sick leave, to encourage sick temporary workers to stay home to limit contagious exposure to others. This is provided by the Office of State Human Resources as an additional resource to agencies but is not a mandate and may not be available to all employees. Check with your agency Human Resources Office for more information.

With public schools and some day care facilities closed due to coronavirus, can I use leave to care for my children? Would this also apply to a closed eldercare facility?

With public schools and some day care facilities closed due to coronavirus, can I use leave to care for my children? Would this also apply to a closed eldercare facility?

When an agency is open but an employee who is a parent or guardian is required to stay home with a child (as defined by the Family and Medical Leave policy) or older adult because of a closure of a day care, school or elder care facility, the employee may use special State of Emergency Leave. This applies to mandatory and non-mandatory employees. Discuss your situation with your agency Human Resources Office.

I am a temporary employee who does not earn sick leave and I believe I am exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus. I am afraid if I take time off from work that I could lose my job. What should I do?

I am a temporary employee who does not earn sick leave and I believe I am exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus. I am afraid if I take time off from work that I could lose my job. What should I do?

With public health as our top priority, temporary employees who have an illness with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 may use special State of Emergency Leave to stay home and recover. If you have reason to believe you have the virus, follow the recommendation of the CDC and call your doctor or public health department, then notify your supervisor that you have taken this step.

If an employee with a temporary appointment is quarantined after having been exposed to a sick person, the employee shall be granted paid leave until the quarantine ends or the employee becomes ill with the communicable disease, whichever comes first.

If I am stranded on personal travel in an affected location and do not have adequate leave to cover my absence, what should I do?

If I am stranded on personal travel in an affected location and do not have adequate leave to cover my absence, what should I do?

Maintain contact with your supervisor and agency Human Resources Office. You may be eligible for State of Emergency Leave, leave without pay or may be advanced leave to be made up within 24 months of the declared State of Emergency.

 

May an agency require an employee to work elsewhere than their primary duty station?

May an agency require an employee to work elsewhere than their primary duty station?

Pursuant to federal law that employers provide a workplace free from recognized hazards causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm, the supervisor, in consultation with their Human Resources Office, may temporarily assign an employee to an alternate work site.

Can I work from home or another location during a public health emergency?

Can I work from home or another location during a public health emergency?

To the greatest extent possible, Governor Cooper encourages all state employees to telework to minimize the risk of contagious infection. Management is encouraged to be flexible to allow telework, but some duties cannot be readily managed offsite. For example, some state agency employees require a secure computer environment or other resources that are not easily portable.

I keep hearing that government agencies are closed, or closed to the public. What does that mean to me as a state employee?

I keep hearing that government agencies are closed, or closed to the public. What does that mean to me as a state employee?

While some facilities are closed to the public, state government remains open and operational. State agencies have been asked to allow their employees to telework to the greatest extent possible. If you have questions about your responsibilities, contact your agency Human Resources Office.

Is it possible that mandatory employees will be expected to remain at their workstation around the clock?

Is it possible that mandatory employees will be expected to remain at their workstation around the clock?

Yes. In the event of a public health emergency that requires mandatory employees to remain at their location 24/7, the state will provide meals and overnight accommodations. Mandatory employees who fail to report to work may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

One of my employees looks sick. What should I do?

One of my employees looks sick. What should I do?

The safety and well-being of our employees is the most important issue and prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a critical step in protecting workers, clients and customers. Employers should inform and encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if they suspect possible exposure. Where appropriate, employers should immediately isolate people who have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and send them home immediately. 

Managers should become familiar with symptoms and isolation procedures, which are outlined on the coronavirus website maintained by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If unsure, consult with Public Health officials.

Additionally, agency management should emphasize to employees the importance of staying home when sick, and employees that are required to stay home by the agency should discuss leave options with their agency’s Human Resources Office. Agencies are encouraged to be flexible in advancing leave to employees who have exhausted other leave balances.

I am concerned about exposure to a coworker who seems sick. Can I insist that they be sent home?

I am concerned about exposure to a coworker who seems sick. Can I insist that they be sent home?

If you have a concern about an employee who appears sick, speak to your supervisor. If agency management believes that an employee has symptoms associated with a communicable disease such as coronavirus, management, in consultation with their Human Resources Office, may require the employee not to report to work and to use any available compensatory leave, sick leave, vacation leave or bonus leave.

Will I be notified if someone I work with is confirmed to have coronavirus?

Will I be notified if someone I work with is confirmed to have coronavirus?

Employees known to be exposed to an individual diagnosed with coronavirus will be notified that a case of coronavirus has been confirmed, but the Americans with Disabilities Act protects the identity and medical information of people with communicable diseases.

Should I cancel a planned business trip if the location is among the places where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an elevated warning?

Should I cancel a planned business trip if the location is among the places where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an elevated warning?

Seek direction from your agency management before traveling to any at-risk location identified by the CDC, as well as locations within North Carolina identified in the Executive Order No. 116. State of North Carolina restrictions are managed by the Public Health Division of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The CDC is responsible for issuing and communicating broad travel warnings to protect Americans from risk. Current CDC Travel Health Notices include warnings for several countries. The State of North Carolina follows CDC’s guidance on work-related travel, and recommends that employees consider this direction when planning personal travel.

If I am returning from a location under travel restrictions, whether for work or personal travel, am I allowed to return to work immediately?

If I am returning from a location under travel restrictions, whether for work or personal travel, am I allowed to return to work immediately?

You may be required not to return to your workplace for the duration of one incubation period, as defined by public health officials.

I am employed through Temporary Solutions. Who should I contact regarding my work schedule, including whether I can telework, if I am sick, or if I feel that I am at increased risk for sickness?

I am employed through Temporary Solutions. Who should I contact regarding my work schedule, including whether I can telework, if I am sick, or if I feel that I am at increased risk for sickness?

Your assigned agency is your employer. You should direct all questions about your work schedule, including whether you can telework or modify your work schedule, to your supervisor or agency HR Representative. You are responsible for notifying your supervisor immediately if you cannot report to work due to illness.

If I contract coronavirus while working, am I eligible for workers’ compensation?

If I contract coronavirus while working, am I eligible for workers’ compensation?

If you become ill and it is determined to be work-related in accordance with the Workers’ Compensation Act, the Workers’ Compensation Policy applies. If your illness is determined not to be work-related, the Sick Leave Policy applies.

I’m a critical worker. How can I get help with child care?

I’m a critical worker. How can I get help with child care?

North Carolina has launched a hotline to help critical workers connect with child care. Workers who need care may call 1-888-600-1685 to receive information about local options for children from infants through age 12. The hotline is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

How does the federal First Families Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) apply to me as a state employee?

How does the federal First Families Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) apply to me as a state employee?

The U.S. Department of Labor created an Employee Rights flyer to explain how FFCRA requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions apply from April 1 through December 31, 2020. For additional information, contact your agency Human Resources Office.