Issues related to COVID-19 Coronavirus are evolving and changing daily. We recommend staying up to date with guidance from federal authorities as the situation continues over the next few weeks or months. Public Entity Partners is committed to providing the most up to date information as it becomes available, but each member should seek out guidance from their city attorney and other local officials regarding this subject matter.
In an effort to provide more specific guidance, we have compiled the following list of frequently
asked questions. These questions and answers should be used as guidance only and are subject to
changes or revisions based on the most recent information and/or directives from federal, state,
and local authorities.
This is unchartered territory for everyone. Public Entity Partners has long made best practice recommendations to members about local government operations. Recommendations concerning how to potentially change operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak fall outside of our normal recommendations and may result in changes to your operations. However, as always, we encourage all members to work towards a safe and healthful workplace and reduce liability exposures as much as reasonably possible. We are actively compiling resources for members but are encouraging members to rely on their local health officials, the CDC, OSHA, and your city attorney.
Currently, the best resources that local governments can rely on during this outbreak are your local health department, the CDC, OSHA, and your city attorney. You will find links below to many of these resources.
The EPA provides recommendations for disinfectants to use against SARS-CoV-2. Those recommendations can be found here.
The CDC also provides information about cleaning and disinfecting related to the Coronavirus outbreak. Those recommendations can be found here.
The Legal & Liability Risk Management Institute has released a short list of considerations for law enforcement operations during the COVID-19 outbreak. Those recommendations can be found here.
Sample Law Enforcement COVID-19 Policy document can be found here.
Additional recommendations for law enforcement can be found from the CDC
Yes. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has cited its 2009 pandemic H1N1 guidance. That guidance can be found here. The CDC has provided guidance advising that employees with symptoms of acute respiratory illness and a fever (greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) should stay home. The CDC’s guidance can be found here.
It depends. If the employee fits within the exposure risk categories established by the CDC they can be required to go home. The CDC has provided guidance on this topic and encouraged employers to categorize employees based on symptoms and risk. The guidance can be found here.
In the CDC’s interim guidance to employers, they shared that a doctor’s note should not be a prerequisite for returning to work as this could cause additional strain on healthcare providers and medical facilities. The interim guidance to employers can be found here.
If employees are utilizing their personal phone or internet and it is not creating extra costs for employees working from home, then you likely are not required to reimburse employees temporarily working from home for those types of expenses. The Department of Labor has provided some guidance on this topic as well as answers to many questions that can be found here.
This is a complicated issue. That’s because coronavirus/COVID-19 is most likely characterized properly as an illness rather than an injury. And workers’ compensation rules around compensable “occupational diseases” are difficult to sort out when the illness in question is one that is community-spread as well as potentially present in a work setting.
Generally, injuries within the workers compensation system fall into two categories: (1) accidental injuries, which are traceable to a particular time, place, and cause, and (2) occupational diseases, which are the result of exposure occasioned by the nature of the employment.
Contagious diseases, particularly those that are community-spread, simply do not fit well within either category. Further, the workers compensation rules do not specify what must be shown to prove that a contagious disease arose out of and occurred within the course and scope of employment. And, finally, workers’ compensation claims must of course be handled on a case-by-case basis, and compensability determinations must be made with attention to the specific details of the claim.
In short, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. On one hand, if the employee was working at the time of the exposure and can establish a causal connection between their employment duties and the infection, then the claim may be compensable. On the other hand, if the virus is widespread throughout the community, it may be difficult for the employee to establish that coronavirus/COVID-19 was contracted at work.
Thus, our best recommendation with respect to workers compensation is to follow the normal employer protocols. In the event an employee reports a claim alleging an injury or occupational disease for an exposure or suspected exposures, you should document the incident well, complete the normal workers’ compensation paperwork, file a claim so that PE Partners can investigate, and seek medical attention promptly.
Also, with respect to coronavirus testing, if an employee believes they may have symptoms, arising out of their employment, the employer should tell the employee to get tested by any provider of their choice. If the test costs are submitted in connection with a workers’ compensation claim, PE Partners will evaluate whether the costs are payable under a compensable claim.
(Question updated 3/25/2020)
Department of Labor Guidance
Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell have provided a brief analysis of this information. You can view it here.
Yes. Local Government Risk Academy has online courses that can be viewed by any city employee, from any computer, 24 hours a day. To view course information available through Local Government Risk Academy click here.
Available courses related to this topic include:
- COVID-19 for Local Government Personnel
- COVID-19 for Law Enforcement
- Communicable Diseases Policy (incl. Guide Sheet)
- Pandemic Planning – Elements of the Plan
- Pandemic Planning – The Planning Organization
Virtual Academy has released a free Roll Call video for law enfrocement regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19). To watch the latest Roll Call click here