Although the CDC continues to assess the immediate health risk from the Coronavirus as “low at this time,” OPM has told agencies that they “should review their plans and continue their preparations since this is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation.”
Agencies are to “continue to monitor and prepare for any circumstances that may hinder the performance of essential functions” and to continue to submit continuity status reports, OPM said, adding that it will “host periodic interagency calls concerning questions and issues that arise about relevant human resource issues.”
OPM told agencies to immediately review their continuity of operations plans “to ensure that telework has been fully incorporated and that as many employees as possible have been identified as telework employees in the plan, and are telework capable (or “telework ready”).”
It also referred agencies to the resources available on the CDC and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health websites (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html and https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/) on preventing exposure in workplaces in general and on planning for potential widespread outbreaks.
The memo was the latest of several on steps to be taken in the federal workplace in reaction to the Coronavirus which also stressed making telework available, at a time when many agencies have cut back on the telework they previously allowed.
Several agencies including Agriculture, Education, EPA, HHS, SSA have cut back on teleworking recently under the administration’s executive orders to strengthen management powers and limit union roles in the federal workplace – something that could be coming back to haunt it given that telework is now being looked at as critical to continuity of operations as well as limiting viral spread.