How to operate a government building during the COVID-19 crisis

Here are my thoughts on the operation of a government facility during the COVID-19 crisis. It’s time we start talking about living with the risks instead of avoiding them with Stay-At-Home orders. If you have a better process than local control, let me know. —-ReasonableCitizen

Living with COVID-19 is a reality. This operational plan doesn’t prevent all possible occurrences of public transmission of COVID-19; however, it reduces the risk that a mass outbreak will occur as a result of a single infected person.

Top government officials within a function or a facility should be responsible for establishing an Infection Control policy for employees and citizens it serves. In addition, an Infection Control Committee should be established in functions or facilities that have more than 30 employees. The size and scope of the Committee should also be determined by top government officials. The purpose of the Committee is to reduce the propensity for an outbreak infection when conducting government affairs. The purpose is not to prevent all possible infections; these infection risks occur naturally in our environment. The Committee is to reduce, not eliminate, the risks that one infected person may infect many others.

Infection Control Policy should include:

1. Developing a Function or Facility Sanitization Plan

Strike Zone Sanitization: Sanitize all horizontal surfaces in the Strike Zone that the public or employees may touch when entering, conducting their business, or exiting the building. The Strike Zone is between the knees and shoulders of an average height adult. Sanitize all Strike Zone areas of vertical surfaces like doors and windows and trim, which the public or employees may encounter.

Frequency of Strike Zone Sanitization: Door handles, customer windows, and public work counters/surfaces: every two hours. Trim and other Strike Zone areas before and after the work shift.

Equip all customer-facing personnel with disinfectant to clean as often as they feel it is necessary.

Establish a Sanitization Station at public entrances/exits for the public and employees to sanitize when entering and leaving a government building.

2. Reducing human-to-human (H2H) droplet transference:

Employ transparent plastic shielding between employees and the public at all public-facing windows and counters.

Employ masks and gloves where appropriate. Changing as needed throughout the day.

Implement a “No Sticky People” policy for employees and the public. People with runny noses, sneezy, coughing, drooling, or leaking bodily fluids are not permitted to enter unless they have an appointment. They should be escorted to and from the appointment area wearing appropriate PPE. A designated meeting area for Sticky People is preferred but not required.

3. Signage and Cautions: Deploying signage throughout the facility explaining the Sanitization Plan for the building and the No Sticky People Policy. The signage should remind everyone that personal responsibility to prevent infection is just as crucial as Sanitization Plans for the public-at-large. People should be told they are in control of themselves. They may choose to accept risks for themselves; however, they should also be mindful of risks to others. Because the nature of COVID-19 allows for asymptomatic transmission, all adults are encouraged to protect their mucosal areas from virus infiltration.

4. Protecting personnel:

  1. Government employees should be provided with the necessary PPE for the performance of their responsibilities. Such PPE is determined by top government officials in conjunction with the Infection Control Committee.
  2. Personnel may employ additional personal protection as they feel necessary to perform their responsibilities. If those additional protections interfere with other departmental employees or the departmental work, the department supervisor will provide coaching and set PPE standards for the ongoing performance of the department. The employee has the right to appeal those standards to Human Relations and Infection Control Committee for adjudication. A decision by HR and the Infection Control Committee is binding on the employee.
  3. Social distancing policy is to be utilized in areas where the public-at-large has access. Social distancing rules may be relaxed in non-public areas of the building, as determined by the Infection Control Committee and top government officials. Meeting rooms and conference rooms should have the sanitization schedule posted in a visible location.

5. Change the operational nature of government and citizen interaction:

  1. Provide phone assistance with e-form completion and provide web-based tutorials on the use and purpose of government services.
  2. Change the business hours for all governmental public-facing activities from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Retain the hours for non-public-facing activities as appropriate. These hours may assist employees in finding convenient and suitable childcare and provides greater opportunity for flexible work hour arrangements. This will also ensure citizens are able to fit government services into their daily schedule as many working Americans work 8-5 pm.

6. Special Conditions and Rules:

Cafeteria and restaurants: Within a government facility, cafeterias and restaurants are subject to the policies established by the Infection Control Committee and may include: sanitization efforts sufficient to prevent the transmission of surface-to-human infections, droplet protection for sanitized utensils and dinner ware, droplet protection for foods and condiments, and caution signage that advises and informs users of the risks in utilizing the food service, i.e., increased human contact and increased risk of infection.

Handling of money: It is the responsibility of government facilities to accept traditional monetary method of payment employed by citizens. Traditional methods are checks, money orders, cash, credit cards, and e-technologies that represent the traditional methods. The Infection Control Committee is charged with reducing the infection risk associated with each type of payment.

Childcare for Employees: It’s the responsibility of the employee to provide safe custody and care for his/her children during normal business hours. The supervisor of the department may grant, upon request and suitability, flexible hours and flexible work conditions to employees with safe-childcare obstacles.

Closure of childcare facilities present such an obstacle. Supervisors are not required to provide alternatives to childcare obstacles but are requested to be flexible where possible.

The closure of schools does not present an obstacle to safe childcare. It is common for schools to close for three months of the year and to have specific dates in which schools are closed while a government facility is open. These are standard closures under normal conditions for parents to problem solve their childcare needs. The COVID-19 crisis does not require additional childcare mitigation.