COVID-19 Safe Return to Worksites FAQs for State Employees The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are provided to help state employees understand necessary safety changes to guide the structured, orderly and incremental return to worksites, as well as inform them of ways to protect themselves from COVID-19-related risks. As COVID-19 conditions continue to evolve, this resource will be updated as needed. Employees are encouraged to contact their Agency Human Resources Office regarding specific concerns and how topics may impact them. Additional COVID-19 information: N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Coronavirus Disease Response Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including business guidance, travel guidance, and email updates N.C. Department of Information Technology Telework Guidance These FAQs will be updated as conditions continue to evolve. Please check back regularly for updated information. Updated April 9, 2021 COVID-19 Safe Return to Worksites FAQs for State Employees Who should I contact at my worksite with questions regarding COVID-19 related matters that are not addressed in these FAQs? Each agency will identify one or more COVID-19 Coordinators to receive and respond to related worksite inquiries. Contact your supervisor or Agency Human Resources Office to learn more. Why are some employees returning to the worksite instead of continuing teleworking? Some employees are needed to perform customer-facing services as state agencies begin to open certain worksites to the public during Phase 2, with more to follow in Phase 3. As agencies gradually increase onsite services, more employees will transition back to assigned duty stations. Additionally, some employees will return because their jobs cannot be performed via teleworking and their work is needed to maintain agency operations. Contact your Agency Human Resources Office to learn more about how this may impact you. What changes are being made at my worksite to reduce risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread? State employees should expect to see a variety of new safety measures designed to emphasize the importance of social distancing, personal hygiene and stepped-up facility cleaning processes dependent on worksite conditions. These may include: Cloth face coverings worn by all employees (including temporary and contract); disposables provided to visitors or those without a face covering; Restrictions on number of visitors, or visits by appointment only; Barriers in public-facing areas to separate employees and visitors; Increased access to hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray or wipes, or other cleaning products; Informational signs to explain importance of COVID-19 safety practices; Directional signs on floors to define traffic flow or ensure six feet of space between people; Limits on the number of people in confined spaces, such as elevators, lobby or meeting rooms; Temporarily closed spaces, such as kitchens or breakrooms; and Other measures appropriate to specific locations. Dependent on the physical layout of your worksite, your individual workspace may be in a different location or altered to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19. Must I submit to a health screening when I arrive at my worksite? As with any employer, state agencies are charged with providing safe worksites. This is especially important during a highly contagious pandemic. Agencies have the right to take your temperature as part of a standardized pandemic health screening; however, it is recommended only at worksites that have available onsite medical personnel to manage this task. Other worksite health screenings may be verbal or written to address topics including (but not limited to) recent exposure to persons known to have COVID-19 and if an employee appears to have or states they are experiencing respiratory or other symptoms associated with COVID-19. If a worksite health screening indicates you have COVID-19 symptoms or have recently been exposed to someone confirmed COVID-19 positive, your supervisor and Agency Human Resources Office will be notified and you will be sent home with CDC guidance regarding self-isolation, directions to seek guidance from your medical provider, and instructions on when to return to work. If you have questions or concerns about COVID-19 self-health assessment or worksite health screenings, contact your Agency Human Resources Office. Should I assess myself for COVID-19 symptoms before reporting to my worksite? You are strongly encouraged to assess each day before reporting to your worksite whether you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms including cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or at least two of the following symptoms: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell. If you are experiencing such symptoms, immediately call and inform your supervisor and do not report to your worksite. You will be given instructions pursuant to CDC guidance regarding self-isolation, the need to seek advice from your medical provider, and instructions on when to return to work. Can my employer ask about my wellness if I appear to have COVID-19-related symptoms while at my worksite? A state agency may conduct a written or verbal worksite health screening to determine if an employee has been recently exposed to someone with COVID-19 or if they appear to have or state they are experiencing related symptoms. These include: Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; or At least two of these symptoms: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell. May my employer send me home from my worksite if I am displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19? For the safety of everyone at a worksite, as well as their families and the greater community, an employee who is displaying COVID-19 symptoms will be sent home with CDC guidance regarding self-isolation, directions to seek guidance from your medical provider, and instructions on when to return to work. State agencies will have a plan to isolate at the worksite any employee(s) who experiences symptoms or illness while awaiting safe transport to their home or a healthcare facility. The symptomatic employee’s security access to the worksite will be restricted until they have recovered. A specific disinfection protocol will be taken by agencies if a person that tests positive for COVID-19 has recently been at a worksite. If I think someone has COVID-19 symptoms at my worksite, who should I contact? Contact your supervisor and state your concerns. For the safety of everyone at a worksite, as well as their families and the greater community, an employee who is displaying COVID-19 symptoms will be sent home with CDC guidance regarding self-isolation, directions to seek guidance from your medical provider, and instructions on when to return to work. State agencies will have a plan to isolate at the worksite any employee(s) who experiences symptoms or illness while awaiting safe transport to their home or a healthcare facility. The symptomatic employee’s security access to the worksite will be restricted until they have recovered. A specific disinfection protocol will be taken by agencies if a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 has recently been at a worksite. How can I inform my agency of an unsafe work condition related to COVID-19? Contact your supervisor, agency safety officer, or Agency Human Resources Office. Should I wear a face mask at my worksite? Executive Order 180 requires employees in Cabinet agencies to wear a face covering that covers the nose and mouth at all times inside state worksites except when alone in a fully enclosed workspace or actively eating or drinking. Employees should also wear face coverings while traveling to or from their vehicle and worksite, while in shared work-spaces, shared vehicles, meetings of two or more people, elevators, reception areas, hallways, breakrooms, etc. These employees are also required to wear face coverings outside while at state worksites unless the employee can maintain consistent physical distance of six (6) feet. Other State agencies are highly encouraged to adopt this requirement. Employees must follow all safety requirements at their worksite. Agencies will provide on-site employees with washable cloth or disposable face coverings. Visitors/contractors/vendors may also be required to wear a face covering that covers the nose and mouth while at State worksites and will be provided with a disposable face covering if not wearing their own. Onsite employees must wear a cloth face covering, practice social distancing and follow current guidelines issued by the DHHS and CDC. Given the newly issued, CDC definition of “close contact,” this includes refraining from congregating, even in small groups, for more than 15 cumulative minutes over the course of 24 hours unless consistent social distancing of at least 6 feet can be maintained; not eating in close proximity to others; and avoiding shared travel to minimize exposure risk from asymptomatic COVID-19 infected persons. If an employee with a disability needs a related reasonable accommodation under the ADA (e.g., modified face covering for interpreters or others who communicate with an employee who uses lip reading, or a religious accommodation under Title VII (such as modified equipment due to religious garb), the employee should contact their Agency Human Resources Office to discuss the request. State agencies may adopt procedures including disciplinary measures for failure to comply with face covering requirements. NCDHHS has additional recommendations to improve mask wearing based on guidance from the CDC. To ensure masks are as protective as possible, NCDHHS recommends that you: Make sure your mask fits snugly against your face and covers your nose and mouth. To help with a snug fit, you can use a mask with a metal strip along the top of the mask. Use two or more layers for your face covering. You can do this by wearing a cloth face covering with two or more layers or by wearing one disposable mask (sometimes referred to as a surgical mask or a medical procedure mask) underneath a cloth mask. Do not wear two disposable masks. Make sure you can see and breathe easily. For additional information on how to improve mask wearing, please see updated guidelines from the CDC. What personal protective equipment (PPE) will I be provided at my worksite? An agency may require employees to wear protective gear (for example, face covering and gloves) and observe infection control practices (for example, regular hand washing and social distancing protocols). Agencies will provide employees with washable or disposable cloth face coverings upon agency-approved return to the worksite. Additional PPE may be provided by your agency including hand sanitizer, disinfectant, gloves, etc. based on your job type. Can I bring additional personal protective equipment (PPE) or a face covering not provided by my agency to use at my worksite? Employees may opt to use items such as gloves or eye protection, in addition to a cloth face covering while at their worksite. What can I do each day at my worksite to reduce my risk of exposure to COVID-19? To proactively minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread, you are strongly encouraged to follow the Three W’s: wearing a cloth facing covering, wait six feet apart from others, and wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer. NCDHHS has additional recommendations to improve mask wearing based on guidance from the CDC. To ensure masks are as protective as possible, NCDHHS recommends that you: Make sure your mask fits snugly against your face and covers your nose and mouth. To help with a snug fit, you can use a mask with a metal strip along the top of the mask. Use two or more layers for your face covering. You can do this by wearing a cloth face covering with two or more layers or by wearing one disposable mask (sometimes referred to as a surgical mask or a medical procedure mask) underneath a cloth mask. Do not wear two disposable masks. Make sure you can see and breathe easily. For additional information on how to improve mask wearing, please see updated guidelines from the CDC. What daily cleaning/disinfection should I perform at my worksite each day? Consistent with CDC and DHHS guidelines, you are strongly recommended to use worksite provided disinfectant wipes or other CDC-approved cleaning products to regularly clean your workspace, with emphasis on high-touch areas like door handles, phones, keyboard, mouse, and office supplies. Limit use of any shared office equipment, taking time to wipe down such items with disinfectant wipes after use. Wash your hands frequently, including after cleaning your workspace or shared equipment. What is being done at my worksite to make common areas safe (such as entrances/exits, conference rooms/classrooms, break rooms, elevators, lobby/reception area, etc.)? Consistent with CDC and DHHS guidelines, janitorial staff at all state-owned facilities have been instructed to use CDC-approved products to clean and disinfect worksites, with stepped-up emphasize on common areas and high-touch surfaces. Increased sanitation also will occur in restrooms. Agencies in leased spaces have been advised to work with property managers. Disinfecting wipes will be available at entry and high-traffic locations for employee use. Employees are encouraged to use these after contact with high-touch surfaces and shared-use items to help maintain a safe work environment, and to wash their hands. Additionally, educational flyers will be posted throughout the worksite to emphasize the importance of the Three W’s: wearing a cloth facing covering, wait six feet apart from others, and wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer. What daily cleaning/disinfection is occurring at my worksite to ensure shared equipment (copiers, printers, scanners, fax machines) is safe for multiple employees to use during the workday? If you must use shared office equipment, such as a printer, fax machine, copier, scanner or other items, wipe down with a disinfectant wipe or other CDC approved cleaning product provided onsite after each use to help maintain a safe work environment, and wash your hands. Note that fitness rooms and some other spaces will be temporarily closed. What is being done at my worksite to promote social distancing to maintain six feet of distance between persons at all times? Agencies will take several steps to strongly encourage social distancing as the most effective way to stop spread of COVID-19. Options include installing barriers in consumer-facing and shared spaces; posting educational flyers (available in English and Spanish); marking floors with directional arrows for traffic flow and six feet of space for waiting; and other measures appropriate to worksite needs. Agencies also will restrict occupancy or temporarily close kitchen and break rooms, conference spaces and classrooms, and other areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain. Where available, continue to use technology solutions to reduce the need for in-person meetings. Dependent on the physical layout of your worksite, your individual workspace may be in a different location or altered to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19. Will everyone at the worksite be working their usual schedules/work hours? As state employees begin the structured, orderly and incremental return to worksites, it is possible that their regular schedule or hours may be modified temporarily to minimize contact with others, thereby reducing the risk of spread of COVID-19. This may be done through staggered arrivals and departures, alternate onsite days combined with telework, or other solutions that work best for specific worksites. Employees should discuss safe return to worksite plans with their supervisor prior to returning to their worksite. What is being done about contact tracing when a co-worker recently present at the worksite tests positive for COVID-19? If an employee recently present at the worksite tests positive for COVID-19, your agency will send out a general email notification to employees that does not identify the COVID-19 positive employee. The local public health department in the COVID-19 positive employee’s county of residence will handle contact tracing and provide necessary persons with necessary medical information. Will the kitchen/breakroom be available for use? Unless an agency’s kitchen or breakroom is large enough to accommodate social distancing, most such facilities will be temporarily closed. Check with your supervisor or office manager to learn if employees will be allowed to use a common refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot, dishes and flatware or other supplies usually available. If these remain available for use, employees must wear facial coverings whenever visiting the kitchen or breakroom in case social distancing cannot be maintained at all times. Will the worksite vending machines be available? Agencies will determine whether they can keep vending machines supplied and available for use at this time. If vending machines are supplied and operational, use disinfectant wipes or cleaner provided onsite to disinfect vending machine touchpads, change slots, etc. after each use, and wash your hands. Will the worksite snack bar be available? In Phase 2, worksite locations with cafeterias will be permitted to open for takeout service only. Operators will determine if it is feasible for them to reopen now or at a later time. May I bring food items from home to share with my coworkers? No. Please understand that the nature of infectious disease makes it inappropriate to share food at this time. May I have food items delivered to me at work? Yes, but plan to meet the delivery person at the worksite entrance instead of having the order dropped off. Remember, food should not be shared with coworkers. May office celebrations of special occasions occur including food items brought from home or delivered? Non-essential office gatherings are not recommended at this time. Birthdays, retirements and other celebrations often are marked with food, but presently it is not recommended to do so. In lieu of in-person gatherings with food, please celebrate such occasions via tele-conference. Will the fitness facility be available for me to use? Not at this time. You will be advised when it is again permissible to do so. What actions should I take in the event of a fire alarm or other emergency? Proceed to usual building evacuation routes and exit the building in a calm and orderly manner, maintaining distance as space will allow. Whether a drill or true emergency, the risk of imminent bodily harm outweighs the risk of violating COVID-19-related social distancing guidelines. What actions should I take in the event of an active assault incident or training drill? Follow usual instructions to run, hide, fight, or shelter in place as appropriate given the situation. Whether a drill or true emergency, the risk of imminent bodily harm outweighs the risk of violating COVID-19-related social distancing guidelines. In the event of a building evacuation, should employees proceed to their designated assembly areas? Yes. After exiting the building via usual evacuation routes, proceed to usual designated assembly areas and maintain distance as space will allow. In this circumstance, the risk of imminent bodily harm outweighs the risk of violating COVID-19-related social distancing guidelines. Will I be required to travel for work? Travel to offsite meetings and between agency worksites should be limited or eliminated to the greatest extent possible through at least Phase 2. Discuss any questions with your supervisor or Agency Human Resources Office. Will I be required to attend conferences? Through at least Phase 2, cancel attendance at pre-arranged conferences per CDC recommendations or state, local, or agency requirements. Discuss any questions with your supervisor or Agency Human Resources Office. Will I have to attend in-person meetings with my coworkers? Employees are being asked to determine if there is truly a need for in-person meetings within worksites and whether non-contact options such as phone calls or video conferencing can be used instead. In-person meetings of fewer than 10 people may be conducted when at least six feet distance can be maintained between participants. Employees and visitors attending in-person meetings should wear a cloth face covering that covers the nose and mouth. Visitors will be provided a disposable face covering if they are not wearing one already. Group events, gatherings, or meetings of more than 10 persons should be cancelled or reconfigured for virtual meeting. Any nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations may be restricted or limited. Will I have to attend in-person training classes? Agency sponsored in-person workshops, trainings, or events for employees will be modified to teleconference format whenever feasible unless attendance limits are met, and social distancing can be maintained. If on-site training is considered mandatory for continuation of a required certification/license and meets state, local, or agency requirements, agency trainings will be held only for small groups where social distancing can be practiced. How will business deliveries to individuals/agencies from other state agencies, vendors, delivery services (FedEx, UPS), etc. be handled? Agencies will establish worksite rules regarding whether work-related packages may be delivered to the addressee or claimed at a central drop-off location. What leave options are available to me if I have COVID-19-specific situations? Consult with your Agency Human Resources Office for the latest time and leave options available due to COVID-19. This includes special State of Emergency Leave, which has changed over time as the COVID-19 conditions have evolved. I was allowed to telework in the early weeks of the COVID-19 State of Emergency. Can I continue teleworking instead of reporting to my worksite? The ability to continue to telework will be based on multiple factors, including your agency’s operations and onsite staffing needs. Contact your supervisor or Agency Human Resources Office to discuss available options. COVID-19 Vaccine, Safety, EEO/ADA Can my employer require me to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Yes. Employers may require employees receive FDA approved vaccines as a condition of employment, subject only to medical exceptions required by the ADA and religious exceptions required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When an agency reopens the workplace and recalls employees to the worksite, does the agency automatically have to grant telework as a reasonable accommodation to every employee with a disability who requests to continue this arrangement as an ADA/Rehabili No, if there is no disability-related limitation that requires teleworking, then the agency does not have to provide telework as an accommodation. Or, if there is a disability-related limitation but the agency can effectively address the need with another form of reasonable accommodation at the workplace, then the agency can choose that alternative to telework. Is it safe for an employee that has received the COVID-19 vaccine to return to onsite work? Yes, when an employee adheres to COVID-19 safety best practices including the 3W’s (Wear. Wait. Wash.), symptom screening, wearing masks, adhering to social distancing requirements, handwashing, cleaning/disinfection, etc. and all employer requirements. Is it safe for an employee that has not received the COVID-19 vaccine to return to onsite work? Yes, when an employee adheres to COVID-19 safety best practices including the 3Ws (Wear. Wait. Wash.), symptom screening, wearing masks, adhering to social distancing requirements, handwashing, cleaning/disinfection, etc. and all employer requirements. If I live with someone with an underlying health condition (vaccinated or not), may I be required to return to onsite work? Yes, EEOC guidelines only require reasonable accommodations for the employee. The ADA does not require that an employer accommodate an employee without a disability based on the disability-related needs of a family member or other person with whom she is associated. Can my agency ask for proof of my COVID-19 vaccination? Yes, the agency may ask for proof of an employee’s COVID-19 vaccination. However, the agency may not ask an employee other question(s) regarding anything related to disability status, genetic information, or religious belief.