The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate with the World Health Organization (WHO), federal, state and local public health partners, and clinicians in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. (James Gathany/CDC)

DHS to Contractors: Prepare for Coronavirus, Watch for Sick Employees

Department of Homeland Security contractors should watch the health of their employees and keep open lines of communication about contract changes needed due to the spread of the coronavirus, Chief Procurement Officer Soraya Correa said in a Thursday memo to the contractor community.

“With the global situation evolving rapidly, and so many sources of information vying for your attention, you may have questions,” Correa wrote. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 website remains the authoritative source for facts about how to protect yourself and your family from the virus, and how to recognize symptoms of the virus. The site is frequently updated with virus guidance and provides updated travel advisories. It is prudent to review the CDC travel advisory website before traveling.”

“If your employees must travel to affected areas, please have them contact you prior to their return to discuss possible telework or leave options,” she continued. “Please advise your employees to contact you immediately if they have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if they went through airport screening upon their return to the United States and were told to self-observe or self-quarantine. If your employee experiences any symptoms while traveling, please have them report to the local public health department and you.”

“If your employees are feeling sick with influenza-like symptoms (cough, fever, difficulty breathing), whether at home or while traveling, please have them contact their supervisor to discuss options to stay home for the duration of their symptoms. Please engage with your employees as soon as possible to discuss options or any specific concern they may have.”

Correa added that “if contract performance is affected due to the COVID-19 situation, such as the need for alternate work locations, or travel or schedule changes, the contracting officer is the authority to discuss this with your company.”

“We appreciate your continued support of the DHS mission,” she said. “As we confront COVID-19 together, keeping these common-sense suggestions in mind can help make all of us safer.”

An Office of Personnel Management memo Tuesday to heads of executive departments and agencies addressed federal workforce posture, management of visitors to federal facilities, and domestic and international travel by federal employees during the spread of the coronavirus.

Agencies “must incorporate telework in their continuity of operations (COOP) plans” and should “continue to monitor and prepare for any circumstances that may hinder the performance of essential functions and continue to submit Continuity Status Reports (CSRs) in accordance with Federal Continuity Directive 1.”

“Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick,” OPM said, citing CDC guidance. “…Federal employees that have spent time in certain countries or specific regions within countries that have been designated by the U.S. Department of State as Level 4 (Do Not Travel) due to COVID-19 are advised to stay at home and monitor their health for 14 days after returning to the U.S.  Federal employees should seek medical advice if they get sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.”

COVID-19: What You Need to Know About the Global Coronavirus Outbreak

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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