Fedweek

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The Biden administration has loosened some additional federal workplace Coronavirus safety protocols but there has been little follow-up to its announced intent to soon have the “vast majority” of federal employees working onsite.

New guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force generally reflects the CDC’s recent shift in focus to local trends and usage rates of health care facilities rather than on simple infection numbers.

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That shift earlier had resulted in the general lifting of mask-wearing requirements in federal facilities, even for unvaccinated employees, where community levels are rated as low or medium — a rating that applies to nearly three-fourths of counties nationwide.

The new guidance generally applies that same change to others in a federal facility, including onsite contractor workers and visitors—in the latter case including federal employees who normally do not work at that facility. Where the community rating is medium or high, such employees must fill out a certification of vaccination form for the visited facility “and, if they are not fully vaccinated or decline to provide their vaccination information, they should be able to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within the past 3 days. As with other visitors, the employee should keep the documentation with them during their time onsite at the other agency,” it says.

That guidance however is the only government-wide policy statements to have emerged in the two weeks since President Biden made his remarks about the government returning offsite workers to their regular worksites. A nationwide pandemic-related document issued the next day said that agencies would increase “the hours public-facing federal offices are open, in-person appointments, and in-person interactions in April.” That document, though, referenced only the SSA’s previously announced plans to have more onsite work at its local offices.

The SSA more recently said that while it will add more in-person appointments and offer in-person service for people without an appointment, “for people who can access our services online or by phone, we ask that they continue to do business with us online or by phone and schedule an appointment, when possible, which will better allow us to timely serve people who cannot use those options.”

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