Fedweek

Safety Concerns Continue as Infection Numbers Climb

Even as the Trump administration has issued guidance on conditions necessary for returning federal agencies to normal operations, concerns continue about the safety protections for federal employees still at their regular worksites, with the number of confirmed Coronavirus-related infections now clearly in the thousands and the number of deaths in the dozens at least.

While there still is no central count, the VA last week reported some 1,600 infections among its employees and 14 deaths.

ADVERTISEMENT

DoD most recently reported 653 infections and seven deaths among its civilians, the USPS about 700 with at least three deaths, the TSA 459 and four deaths, and several other agencies reporting hundreds of infections, some of them also with several confirmed deaths.

There also is no count of the number of employees in quarantine due to suspected exposure but scattered reports put that figure into the many thousands, as well.

Some members of Congress have been pressing agencies to better explain their policies and to respond to continuing complaints from employees about inadequate personal protective equipment such as masks—especially in high-risk settings such as those requiring direct contact with people who have covid-19 symptoms or who may have been exposed.

Under normal circumstances there likely would have been Capitol Hill hearings by now but Congress has been out of session for many weeks.

Federal unions also continue to raise such concerns, with the AFGE most recently filing a national grievance over the VA’s Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System allowing for reassigning employees.

Further, OSHA has started an investigation into safety conditions at VA facilities and the Justice Department IG has started one regarding federal prisons.

Guidance Addresses Telework, Scheduling, Vulnerable Employees

Pay, Benefits Issues Left for Future Virus Relief Bill (4/21/2020)

Federal Pay Limits Waived for COVID-19 Response (4/16/2020)

2020 Federal Employees Handbook