The Federal government’s aggressive response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) saved lives and substantially mitigated overall damage and risk to the Nation. Along with its role in leading response efforts, the Federal government is the Nation’s largest employer, with a significant presence and impact in communities across the country. The immediate response to COVID-19 included a calibrated re-alignment of various Federal activities and operations around the country, and operational shifts such as a dramatic surge in Federal workforce telework. Now, in partnership with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, and the private sector, the Federal government is actively planning to ramp back up government operations to the maximum extent possible, as local conditions warrant, consistent with the National guidelines for Opening Up America Again.
The National guidelines allow objective assessments of epidemiological status and overall preparedness by states to follow a phased approach for individuals and employers to resume normal activities. The guidelines incorporate gating criteria which must be met in a state or county (in addition to core preparedness responsibilities) before proceeding to the phased reopening process: 1) influenza-like illnesses and covid-like cases of illness must trend downward for 14 days; 2) documented COVID-19 cases and prevalence of positive tests must trend downward for 14 days (while not decreasing the overall number of tests); and, 3) local hospitals must have the capacity to treat all patients without crisis care and jurisdictions must have a robust healthcare worker testing program and plan in place.
Once gating criteria are met, state and regional leaders will be able to assess appropriate mitigation strategies to move through a 3-Phased process to re-open America. The timeline for moving through the 3-Phased approach will be dependent on the ability to control infection levels, and maintain a constant decrease over time. The Federal government remains committed to this Federally supported, state managed, and locally executed model.
The plan to return Federal government operations to normalcy parallels the National guidelines. This guidance establishes near- to mid-term processes to align Federal agency operations to the National guidelines, and supports the transition of Federal government operations back to a normal state while maintaining practices which have proven successful in fighting the virus. In general, the Federal Government will calibrate its transitional strategy to return to normal operations to the Phase of a state, county, region, or metropolitan-area determined by the state assessment.
Given the diversity of Federal workforce missions, geographic locations and the needs of individuals within the workforce itself, this transition will require continued diligence and flexibility from Federal agencies and the Federal workforce. Federal agencies are held to a high standard for continuing operations and services to the American public. To this end, agency leaders must continue to ensure continuity in delivery of Federal government services, protect . the health and safety of the Federal workforce, and provide Federal government leadership and momentum as an impetus toward a broader national return to normalcy. The Federal government’s actions are critical for the Nation’s response and recovery, and for maintaining a high level of trust in government services that millions of Americans depend on each day.
This guidance describes a process for agency heads and leaders to make decisions for their workforce operations while utilizing the different telework postures implemented during the outset of the COVID-19 response. Agencies should account for agency personnel and facility requirements when determining service levels and telework posture to meet their specific mission needs.